Australia calls politically motivated Great Barrier Reef warning

Australia called a draft decision by the UN World Heritage Committee to include the Great Barrier Reef on its list of “endangered” politically.

The committee, which is chaired by Tian Xuejun, China’s vice minister of education, and selects Unesco World Heritage sites, has proposed adding the world’s largest collection of coral reefs to the list of dangers due to damaging impact climate change and coastal development.

The designation could ultimately cause the reef to lose its World Heritage status, although officials said the inscription was intended to trigger emergency action to safeguard a living structure that stretches 2,300 km along the coast. is from Australia.

But Sussan Ley, Australia’s Environment Minister, said the government had been “blinded” by the committee’s findings and alleged there was a lack of consultation and transparency. She added that Canberra would challenge the draft decision.

“When the procedures are not followed, when the process is reversed five minutes before the publication of the draft decision, when the assurances received by my officials and I have been upset, what can you conclude other than political? ” she said.

The fact that the World Heritage Committee is chaired by a senior Chinese official fueled suspicions in Canberra that it had been singled out for its diplomatic relations and trade conflict with Beijing.

Sino-Australian relations have deteriorated following Canberra’s call last year for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and Beijing’s imposition of tariffs on Australian imports of wine and barley.

Ley said she and Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, had previously spoken to Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of Unesco, to complain about the draft decision.

But scientists have played down the suggestion that the “endangered” SEO was politically motivated. Three mass bleaching events in five years demonstrated the need for the government to do more to tackle climate change, they said.

“I see media coverage saying this is all a conspiracy by China not to buy wine, lobsters and fuck the barrier reef. I think this is quite far-fetched considering that the draft decision released overnight will be voted on by 21 countries, ”said Terry Hughes, professor of marine biology at James Cook University.

The controversy will continue to accumulate at the international level pressure on Canberra, which has been pressed by the US, UK and others to commit to a national goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

In a draft decision to be voted on next month, the committee urged Canberra to “provide clear commitments to address the threats of climate change, in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and achieve faster water quality objectives “.

He noted the loss of nearly a third of the shallow water coral cover as a result of a “bleaching” event in 2016 – a process related to warmer than normal water that can lead to mass. coral dieback.

The feud over the ‘endangered’ list came at a difficult time for Australia’s conservative coalition, which is embroiled in internal wrangling over climate policies.

Climate skeptic and coal miner Barnaby Joyce ousted Michael McCormack on Monday to become leader of the National Party, the Liberal Party’s junior coalition partner and Australia’s deputy prime minister. Joyce is expected to oppose any attempt to commit to net zero by 2050.

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