Australia pushes back against UN’s move to list Great Barrier Reef as ‘endangered’


COP27 Australia Great Barrier Reef
Two divers from the Reef Magic cruise swim above corals on Moore Reef in Gunggandji Sea Country off the coast of Queensland in eastern Australia on Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil) Sam McNeil/AP

Australia pushes back against UN’s move to list Great Barrier Reef as ‘endangered’

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The Australian government is pushing back against the United Nations’s move to add the Great Barrier Reef to a list of endangered World Heritage sites.

A report from the U.N. cultural agency and the International Union for Conservation of Nature recommends taking “ambitious, rapid and sustained” climate action for the iconic location, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization intending to mark the location as endangered. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has argued that the U.N. report was a reflection on Australia’s previous conservative government and that the country’s new government has already addressed several of the expressed concerns, according to the Associated Press.


“We’ll very clearly make the point to UNESCO that there is no need to single the Great Barrier Reef out in this way” with an endangered listing, Plibersek told reporters. “The reason that UNESCO in the past has singled out a place as at risk is because they wanted to see greater government investment or greater government action and, since the change of government, both of those things have happened.”

Australia’s conservative government was voted out of office in May, which had been in power for nine years. It has since been replaced with a center-left Labor Party government.

Since taking office, the Labor Party has worked to commit Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% below the 2005 level by 2030. The previous government had only committed to a reduction of 26% to 28% by 2030.


In addition, the Labor Party has committed 1.2 billion Australian dollars, roughly $798 million, to caring for the reef. The party has also canceled plans to build two major dams in Queensland state.

“If the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, then every coral reef in the world is in danger,” Plibersek said. “If this World Heritage site is in danger, then most World Heritage sites around the world are in danger from climate change.”

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