Australia fights UN downgrade of Great Barrier Reef health
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia said Tuesday it will fight against plans to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status due to climate change, while environmentalists have applauded the U.N. World Heritage Committee’s proposal.
The committee said in a draft report on Monday that “there is no possible doubt” that the network of colorful corals off Australia’s northeast coast was “facing ascertained danger.”
The report recommends that the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, which includes 53 sites, when the World Heritage Committee considers the question in China in July.
The listing could shake Australians' confidence in their government's ability to care for the natural wonder and create a role for UNESCO headquarters in devising so-called “corrective measures,” which would likely include tougher action to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
Any downgrade of the reef’s World Heritage status could reduce tourism revenue that the natural wonder generates for Australia because fewer tourists would be attracted to a degraded environment and dead coral.
Reef cruise operators said the report was wrong and that tourists continued to be awed by dazzling coral and multicolored fish. But some tourists said the reef had seemed more colorful during visits decades ago.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said she and Foreign Minister Marise Payne had called UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay to express the government’s “strong disappointment” and “bewilderment” at the proposal.
Australia, which is one of 21 countries on the committee, will oppose the listing, Ley said.
“This decision was flawed. Clearly there were politics behind it,” Ley told reporters. “Clearly those politics have...