The Australian environment minister said she would petition against UNESCO’s decision to add the Great Barrier Reef to the endangered World Heritage sites list.
According to the official, the Australian government is doing its utmost to preserve and protect the Great Barrier Reef. And that UNESCO should discredit government criticisms for the non-protection of the environmental site.
However, the UN Cultural Agency officials and the International Union for Conservation of Nature said that the country needs to undergo an “ambitious, rapid and sustained” climate action. Otherwise, the Great Barrier Reef will disintegrate.
“We’ll very clearly make the point to UNESCO that there is no need to single the Great Barrier Reef out in this way,” said Tanya Plibersk, the environment minister.
“The reason that UNESCO in the past has singled out a place as at risk is that they wanted to see greater government investment or greater government action and, since the change of government, both of those things have happened,” she added.
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Australian government committed to protection
Plibersek added that the Australian government already started taking steps to protect the reefs from damage. The country’s legislature passed a law that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43%.
Moreover, she said the Australian government would allocate 1.2 billion Australian dollars or $798 million to take care of the reef. Plibersek also pushed for canceling the two dams supposedly constructed in Queensland. The construction would have adversely affected the corals and the marine ecosystem.
“If the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, then every coral reef in the world is in danger. If this World Heritage site is in danger, then most World Heritage sites around the world are in danger from climate change,” Plibersek added.
However, the report said the Australian federal government emphasized the need for better climate goals. According to the global standard, Australia needs to proactively reduce emissions that would pave the way for the warming limit to 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. James Cook University marine biologist Jodie Rummer echoed the calls for more ambitious goals.
“We are taking action, but that action needs to be much more rapid and much more urgent,” she attested.
“We cannot claim to be doing all we can for the reef at this point. And we aren’t. So we need to be sending that message to the rest of the world that we are doing everything that we possibly can for the reef, and that means we need to take urgent action on emissions immediately,” she added.
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More discussion needed
UNESCO will still convene to decide on the matter. The previous Australian administration successfully battered the intention to categorize the reef as “in danger.” And this is what Plibersek aims to achieve this time.
However, scientists report that coral bleaching has already affected over 90% of the Great Barrier Reef. The bleaching that damaged two-thirds of the coral occurred in 2016, 2017, and 2020.
The Great Barrier Reef comprises 10% of the world’s corals. It covers over 348,000 square miles of area and houses more than 2,500 reef ecosystems. However, over the years, intense warming over the Pacific Ocean damaged the coral, leading to mass bleaching of the corals.
But the environment minister reiterated that her government would pour in the country’s resources to revitalize the reefs.