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Australia Avoids UNESCO Downgrade of Great Barrier Reef

Australia Avoids UNESCO Downgrade of Great Barrier Reef

Friday, 23 July, 2021 - 12:30
The UNESCO logo is seen during the opening of the 39th session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at their headquarters in Paris, France, October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Australia on Friday garnered enough international support to defer for two years an attempt by the United Nations’ cultural organization to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status because of damage caused by climate change.

UNESCO had recommended that its World Heritage Committee add the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem off the northeast Australian coast to the World Heritage in Danger list, mainly due to rising ocean temperatures.

But Australian-proposed amendments to the draft decision at a committee meeting in China on Friday deferred the “in danger” question until 2023.

In the meantime, a monitoring mission will visit the reef to determine how the impact of climate change can be managed.

Representatives of 16 of the 21 committee nations apart from Australia spoke in favor of the amendments before the committee accepted the position without a vote, The Associated Press reported. Only Norway argued for the reef to be listed “in danger.” The committee usually makes consensus decisions.

Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley told the virtual meeting that downgrading the reef’s status before the committee had finalized its own climate change policy made no sense.

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