A United Nations draft report states that the Great Barrier Reef will not go on a World Heritage danger list.
The document says Australia must take commitments in order to protect the reef, which include restricting new port developments and restoring water quality. The final decision on the matter of the reef’s status will be taken at the World Heritage Committee meeting that takes place in Germany next month.
Conservationists have claimed that the state of the reef is “poor”. According to a study published in 2014 the condition of the natural wonder “is expected to further deteriorate in the future”. Pollution from industry, extreme weather and climate change were mentioned a key concerns.
Australia recently submitted a plan to Unesco, the UN heritage body, in which it explained how it would address these threats. The plan included reducing pollution by 80% by 2025, but also reversing a decision which allows dredged material to be deposited near the reef.
The new Unesco draft report states that Australia must carry out this 35-year action plan, while Unesco will check on its development. The Great Barrier Reef was included as a World Heritage site in 1981.
It is a great collection of thousands of small coral reefs, that are stretching from the southern city of Bundaberg to the northern tip of Queensland. The United Nations adds that of its World Heritage sites this is the “most biodiverse”, and that the reef is of “enormous intrinsic and scientific importance”.
Greenpeace also released a statement in which it criticized the draft report, saying it is a “red flag from Unesco”. Reef campaigner Shani Tager said the fact that the Australian authorities had been asked to draw up a report by 2017 is a bad decision.
Prof Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at the University of York in the UK, argues that Unesco is on a good path, based on “major progress” which were recently made by the Australian authorities in the region. He added that the recent news was more of a postponement than a final decision.
“They’re setting targets and they’re obviously going to watch this very closely. I think Unesco is right to put on hold its decision, in view of this long-term sustainability plan. But it’s also very right to set some target dates for Australia to produce evidence that it’s actually sticking to the plan – that it’s investing enough money to make that plan happen”, Prof Roberts said.
Image Source: Australian Geographic