Australian Govt ordered to take action to protect the Great Barrier Reef

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 01 Jul 2015 11:58
UNESCO orders action over Great Barrier Reef
UNESCO orders action over Great Barrier Reef

Australia must deliver “effective and sustained protection” of the reef from threats including reckless industrialization and pollution, UNESCO said today.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee has voted to maintain pressure on Australia to deliver on its promise to restore the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian government is required to provide a first report on progress in just 18 months.

The committee welcomed Australia’s “commitment to establish a permanent ban on dumping of dredged material from all capital dredging projects within the property” and to restrict new megaport expansions in and near the reef. Following this decision, WWF expects a full ban on dumping in the reef’s World Heritage waters to come into force within months.

“This vote by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee demonstrates that green advocacy works: the Australian government is now effectively on probation over the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. For this amazing place to flourish again, governments and businesses alike have a crucial role to play. We will be watching progress and continue to protect this and other natural World Heritage sites,” said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK.

On Sunday, WWF delivered signatures from people in 177 countries to the UNESCO committee asking it to firmly defend the shared natural heritage when it comes under threat.

“Australia has promised to prioritize the health of the reef over damaging activities like dumping dredge spoil. UNESCO will be watching to ensure that the condition of the reef improves in coming years, as will the 550,000 WWF campaign supporters and millions of people worldwide who are deeply concerned and want to see a stop to industrial destruction of the Great Barrier Reef," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

In its final reef decision, the committee expressed continued concern that habitats and wildlife populations have declined, and that the reef’s overall outlook is poor. The committee emphasized that major long-term threats such as water pollution and climate change remain and require action.

Australia is requested to “rigorously implement all of its commitments… in order to halt the current documented declines,” the committee decision says. The country must report back to UNESCO on its progress by December of next year and again three years later in order to demonstrate “effective and sustained protection” of the reef.

“Water pollution and climate change remain major threats to the health of the Great Barrier Reef, and WWF will work tirelessly to ensure that action is taken to preserve and repair this remarkable marine ecosystem,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman. “Today’s World Heritage decision will keep the pressure on Australia to turn promises into real action and results. We must bring back the corals, the turtles, the dugongs - the natural wonders of the reef.”

Lawyers from US-based Earthjustice and Environmental Justice Australia, who together recently released a report finding that the Reef meets the legal criteria to be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, say that if Australia does not take stronger action at the domestic and international levels to address climate change – the greatest threat to the Reef’s long term survival – it will remain open to the Committee to list the Reef as “in danger” in 2017.

“The World Heritage Committee found that the outlook for the Reef is poor and that climate change, poor water quality, and coastal developments are major threats to the health of the Reef,” said Ariane Wilkinson, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia.

“It recognized the importance of Australia restricting major new port developments and limiting capital dredging to ensure the ‘future conservation’ of the Reef, and it imposed an 18 month review upon Australia,” she said.

“The World Heritage Committee’s decision shows that the international community is watching Australia – and it does not like what it sees,” said Earthjustice’s Australian lawyer, Noni Austin.

“The evidence is clear: climate change is one of the greatest threats to the Reef’s long term survival. But at a time when we must burn less coal, Australia is proposing to expand coal export terminals like Abbot Point on the Reef’s coast.

“These port expansions directly harm the Reef and enable Australia to open massive new coal mines in the Galilee Basin – adding insult to injury by exacerbating climate change.

“Last month we released a legal analysis that found that the Reef meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Today’s decision of the World Heritage Committee gives Australia a reprieve from an ‘in danger’ listing.

“But if Australia does not take stronger climate action and stop the coal port expansions and the development of the Galilee Basin, it will remain open to the World Heritage Committee to place the Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger when it considers the Reef again in 2017,” said Ms. Austin.

“It is time for Australia to step up to ensure this unique and threatened part of humanity’s world heritage is not lost forever,” Ms Wilkinson concluded.




Sign up to receive Search Gate's FREE weekly newsletter with a review of all the latest green news and views









Comments about Australian Govt ordered to take action to protect the Great Barrier Reef

There are no comments yet on Australian Govt ordered to take action to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Be the first to leave one, enter your thoughts below.

Post a comment






Alert me of replies

You have characters left


 












Latest issue of GreenWeek











Powered by SEO Rockstars
© All Rights Reserved.