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Great Barrier Reef escapes UNESCO “in danger” categorisation

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Great Barrier Reef escapes UNESCO “in danger” categorisation
The United Nation’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has indicated it will likely delay a decision to list one of Australia’s major visitor attractions as a World Heritage site under threat.

The draft decision came overnight, within a report on the conservation of World Heritage sites around the world, ahead of the annual global meeting of the World Heritage Committee next month in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the decision to not place the Great Barrier Reef on the “List of World Heritage in Danger”.

I know this is particularly welcome news for communities in Queensland, where the reef supports local jobs and local economies,” said Albanese at a press conference in Canberra this morning.

“We know that the reef contributes some $6 billion to the Australian economy and supports 64,000 jobs.

“As the draft decision makes clear, Australia’s environmental policies have fundamentally changed under the Labor Government and changed for the better. My government has invested a record $1.2 billion in the reef.

“Of course, this decision doesn’t mean the reef is in the clear. It does confirm that Labor’s policies are making a real difference. We need to act on climate change. We need to protect our land, our water and our species that call them home,” he said.

Although Albanese has claimed the draft decision as a victory for his political party, the UNESCO report noted a period of recovery for the reef between 2019 and 2022, in addition to there being no major coral bleaching event last summer.

UNESCO did attribute some of its reasoning to commitments made under the new Labor government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions nationally by 43 per cent, based on emissions levels in 2005. Rejecting a new coal mine in central Queensland and pulling commitments to the construction of two dams were also noted as important to the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the world’s seven natural wonders and is so large that it is the only living thing on Earth than can be seen from space.

The news will likely be welcomed by the business events community in Queensland, particularly in the Whitsundays, Cairns and Port Douglas, which are major international event destinations, in large part due to being gateways to the reef.

While the Great Barrier Reef looks likely to have escaped being placed on the “in danger” list in 2023, its status will be reviewed again, prior to the meeting of the World Heritage Committee in 2024 and there remains major worries about conservation issues affecting the reef.

“The sequence of bleaching events in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022, the latter of which occurred during a La Niña year for the first time, are of utmost concern,” UNESCO’s latest report notes.

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