UN Declares Great Barrier Reef 'In Danger,' Australia Disagrees

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The Great Barrier Reef was worth an estimated $4 billion a year in tourism revenue for the Australian economy before the coronavirus pandemic
The Great Barrier Reef was worth an estimated $4 billion a year in tourism revenue for the Australian economy before the coronavirus pandemic

The bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef has drawn great concern from the United Nations, which recommended the coral reef system should be inscribed on a list of World Heritage Sites that are "in danger.

The U.N. claimed in a report that Australia’s government has not done enough to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change and that they have not met their key targets on improving water quality.

They have called for Australia to “urgently” address threats from climate change. However, Australia's Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley responded by "strongly opposing" the recommendation, arguing the government was investing $3 billion in reef protection. 

Ley accused the U.N. of bringing up non-relevant past assurances and singling out Australia.

"Climate change is the single biggest threat to all of the world's reef ecosystems ... and there are 83 natural World Heritage properties facing climate change threats so it's not fair to simply single out Australia," she said, according to BBC News.

"The Great Barrier Reef is the best-managed reef in the world and this draft recommendation has been made without examining the reef first hand, and without the latest information," Ley said in a statement.

The Great Barrier Reef is a crucial marine ecosystem that spans over 133,000 square miles. It homes more than 1,500 species of fish and 411 species of hard corals. It also contributes $4.8 billion annually to Australia's economy and supports 64,000 jobs, according to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

A study by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies noted that the reef had lost 50% of its coral populations in the past three decades, with climate change as the main reason for reef interruption. 

The UNESCO report said that Australia’s government's "progress has been insufficient" in keeping up with agreements to have “accelerated action to mitigate climate change and improve water quality.”

They had agreed to a plan called the Reef 2050 Plan, and it "requires stronger and clearer commitments, in particular towards urgently countering the effects of climate change.”

If the reef is placed on the World Heritage Site's that are "in danger" this would be the first time a site will have been placed because of climate change.

Adding the Great Barrier Reef to the list can help bring funds and publicity but the recommendation could also affect a major tourism destination worth $56 billion that has created thousands of jobs, according to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The recommendation will be voted on at a committee meeting in China next month.

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