Valued at $56 billion, the Great Barrier Reef, taken off UNESCO’s danger list with the Australian government continuing its love affair with the fossil fuel industry.
UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural body has voted to leave the Great Barrier Reef off its “in danger” list despite the fact that the World Heritage Site was ravaged by bleaching due to global warming.
The decision, taken at a UNESCO committee meeting in Krakow, essentially allows the Australian government to dodge embarrassment from damage to the country’s lucrative tourism industry.
“We’re taking every action possible to ensure this great wonder of the world stays viable and healthy for future generations to come,” said Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s Energy Minister to Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio.
The country’s management of the Great Barrier Reef has come under sustained criticism midst the biggest ever coral bleaching ever recorded, which scientists believe is exacerbated if not the result of climate change.
Eager to dodge charges of its management of the World Heritage Site, which incidentally has been valued at $56 billion, the Coalition government of Malcolm Turnbull, lobbied all 21 UNESCO members.
The Australian government’s commitment towards mitigating the effects of climate change have come under question with the government’s lingering love affair with the fossil fuel industry.
Coal is Australia second-biggest foreign exchange earner and the government is actively supporting a new $4 billion coal mine plant by Adani Enterprises which would see ships carrying millions of tonnes of coal through the waterways of the Great Barrier Reef.
This project will see the expansion of Adani’s Abbot Point terminal which is located right next to the reef. According to environmentalists, this extra traffic is likely to release significant amounts of soils and debris over the reef and thus cause extensive damage to the already fragile ecosystem.
“An endangerment listing, as tragic as that would be, would be a more realistic representation of the state of reef and would at least force the federal government to act on climate change,” said Alix Foster Vander Elst, Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner.
Despite endorsing Australia’s management plan, the World Heritage Committee expressed “serious concern” on the health of the reef.
It has urged the Australian government to accelerate its efforts to improve water quality surrounding the reef, and described it as “essential to the overall resilience of the property”.