The World Daily
Great Barrier Reef recommended for endangered status

Photo of a fire coral that experienced severe bleaching in the 2016 mass bleaching event. Photo:The Ocean Agency/VOX


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | JUNE 20th 2021 


According to a recommendation put forward by officials from the United Nations, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia’s territory ought to be placed on a list of world heritage sites that are endangered due to climate change.

The Great Barrier reef, known to be the biggest coral reef ecosystem in the entire world, was recommended for the status of “in danger” by the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The decision would need to be made at the world heritage committee meeting that’s set to take place next month – a committee established in 1977 that decides which sites are to be deemed UNESCO World Heritage Sites, offering them specific legal protections for their preservation in the process.

According to Sussan Ley, the environment minister to the Australian government, officials had been “stunned” by the announcement of the recommendation and that it was highly likely that the government would “strongly oppose” it. Particularly since UN officials had supposedly made the previous assertion that this step would not be taken this year – which Ley now describes as a “backflip on previous assurances.”

The UNESCO report on the crisis had read that some of the key goals towards improving water quality in Australia had yet to actually be met, despite the country’s efforts. It also wrote that any revisions to Australian policy about the plan for net-zero emissions by 2050 should absolutely take into account the results made from the major government review, which states that “accelerated action at all possible levels is required to address the threat from climate change.”

“The plan requires stronger and clearer commitments, in particular towards urgently countering the effects of climate change, but also towards accelerating water quality improvement and land management measures,” wrote the report.

According to experts, should the committee follow through with the recommendation from the UN, the Great Barrier Reef would be the first natural world heritage site in the world to have been granted an “in danger” status.

Whilst Ley admitted that the current biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef was climate change, she did also assert that the world heritage was “not the forum” on which to make any sorts of points about it.

“This decision was flawed and clearly there was politics behind it, and that has subverted the proper process. For the World Heritage committee not to foreshadow this listing is appalling,” she told reporters. 


She added: “When procedures are not followed and the process is turned on its head and the assurances my officials received have all been upended at the last minute, what else can you conclude ... that this is politics.”

Much of the Great Barrier Reef has already been lost to the process of ‘coral bleaching’ – a process that scientists had discovered was linked to global heating. When the waters become too warm, certain algae called zooxanthellae are released from the corals, making them lose their colourful pigments and turn a deathly white.

The symbiotic relationship between the corals and the algae are crucial not only for the survival of the corals themselves, but for that of the entire reef. With the crisis of global warming to contend with, coral bleaching has been observed all across the world, threatening the collapse of these complex marine ecosystems that are contributed to not only by the corals, but also by the many marine species that inhabit them.

“You can’t have both,” said Adam Bandt, leader of the Green party in Australia, stating that the country will eventually have to choose between coal and the Great Barrier Reef. “If the world heats up over 1.5C [compared with pre-industrial levels], the reef will die. The only party in Australia with climate targets in line with 1.5C is the Greens.” 


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021 

Source: The Guardian