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Relief for Great Barrier Reef as it stays off the UNESCO danger list

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A UNESCO heritage committee on Tuesday suggested that the Great Barrier Reef be kept off the list of world heritages that are in danger. This spells relief for the Australian government which has been lobbying intensely for the past few years to keep the reef off the endangered list as it contributes A$6 billion ($4 billion) to the economy and supports 64,000 jobs and its continuation in the ‘danger list’ would lead to it losing its world heritage status, heavily affecting its tourism business.

The heritage committee has however warned that the 2,300-kilometre network of corals, the biggest in the world still remains under ‘serious threat’ from global heating and water pollution and also said that more action is still needed to protect the world heritage site in the future.

“The draft decision cites ‘significant progress’ being made on climate change, water quality, and sustainable fishing, all putting the reef on a stronger and more sustainable path,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during a media briefing. He also acknowledged that the UNESCO draft decision does not put the reef “in the clear” and that more steps were needed to keep it off the endangered list.

The Australian government has pledged A$1.2 billion to protect the reef and has withdrawn federal funding for dams and denied permission for a coal mine stating that it could have affected the reef’s water quality. The government has been asked by the UN panel to submit a progress report by February 2024. The World Wide Fund for Nature- Australia has also warned the government that UNESCO could once again place the reef in the endangered list if the Australian government doesn’t take appropriate action and fails to demonstrate action on existing commitments.

“UNESCO has kept the Australian and Queensland governments on probation,” said WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck. “There’s an opportunity for Australia to lift its game before it is required to provide a progress report next year,” he added.

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