Unesco officials have rejected concerns raised by Australia and the ambassadors of 11 other countries that the processes were not followed before a key meeting next month that could place the Great Barrier Reef on a world heritage list. ” in danger”.
The UN body sought to reformulate its recommendation to list the jewel of the ocean as an opportunity to unite the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save the world’s largest coral reef.
Dr Mechtild Rössler, director of the Unesco World Heritage Center in Paris, also said that during meetings with Australian officials last May she had given no guarantees that the Great Barrier Reef would be saved from the “in danger” list. .
“Many governments misunderstand the list of dangers,” he said in an online briefing attended by Guardian Australia on Friday night.
“It is not a red list that ends with less tourism, but it is a call to action and that is the fundamental idea. Everyone needs to know that there is a site that is threatened and we all have a duty to preserve [it] for generations to come. “
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also warned that as the world continues to warm, there could be more world heritage coral reefs included on the list.
A few days after UNESCO announced that it recommended the Great Barrier Reef for the list of “in danger”, the Australian ambassador of UNESCO in Paris, Megan Anderson, wrote to the UN body along with 11 other countries.
A former Australian world heritage official told Guardian Australia that the letter should be seen as the beginning of Australia’s promised lobbying effort to fight the Unesco recommendation ahead of the world heritage meeting, to be chaired by China, next month. .
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the Unesco process as “appalling” and said Australia had been “talking to our friends”.
The letter was also signed by Indonesia, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Thailand, Hungary, Poland, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Turkey, and Spain.
Only three of those countries, Spain, Thailand and Hungary, will be able to vote on the Great Barrier Reef as members of the 21-country committee.
Rössler said that Unesco had responded to all countries, describing the processes under the convention and how they had been followed.
A May 2020 meeting with Australian officials was to discuss the practicalities of holding a virtual meeting, not to discuss the Great Barrier Reef and no guarantees had been given, Rössler said.
Australian environment minister Sussan Ley has said Unesco generally conducts site visits before making key recommendations.
But Rössler said this was not always the case when evidence of “proven danger” was clear in reports sent to UNESCO by governments, as was the case in Australia.
Dr Fanny Douvere, head of Unesco’s marine program, said there were 29 world heritage reef sites, but none had suffered three coral bleaching events in just five years, like Australia.
“Yes, in the future, over the next few decades, we may see other sites with similar effects. [recommended for in danger], but we have to follow the guidelines, “he said.
Apart from Australia, several countries that jointly signed the lobbying letter have outstanding problems with their world heritage sites.
In reports for the next committee meeting, UNESCO said it “deeply regrets” that Turkey has changed the status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia from a church to a mosque without informing the world heritage center.
Unesco is also recommending to next month’s committee that the Liverpool seafront in the UK be completely stripped of its world heritage status, after being on the “endangered” list since 2012.
Unesco recommended the postponement of a fourth nomination from Thailand for world heritage status for its Kaeng Krachan forest.
Douvere said Australia’s reef had been well managed and $ 3 billion had been spent on conservation efforts. But the water quality targets had not been met and much of the reef had been bleached in 2016, 2017 and 2020.
“With global warming, it is clear that the Australian government alone cannot do this,” he said, adding that the longer it takes for the world to reach a 1.5 ° C warming trajectory, “the more expensive it is. is will become Australian taxpayers ”.
“It is getting more and more expensive to restore the reef and protect it and that is an important story.
“This decision provides an opportunity to turn this around and reach a future that will save the Great Barrier Reef, save jobs, income and livelihoods for so many, more than 60,000 people who depend on the Great Barrier Reef. de Coral, and simultaneously ensure that the financial investment remains feasible.
“This decision is an opportunity to unite the international community and understand that the window of opportunity is narrowing and the world needs to limit its emissions to 1.5 ° C.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism