UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, has released a report recommending Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to be added to a list of world heritage sites that are “in danger” and is urging Australia to take “accelerated action at all possible levels” to protect the reef from the impacts of climate change.
The report has angered Australian officials who say they have been “singled out.”
“There’s about 82 properties that are at risk of climate change … and they’ve singled out Australia for this unprecedented approach,” Australia’s environment minister Sussan Ley told ABC.
Rising temperatures have heavily impacted the Great Barrier Reef, leading to devastating mass coral bleaching events in the past few years. The most recent, in 2020, was the worst mass coral bleaching event in five years.
Coral bleaching occurs when stresses to the corals cause them to expel algae and turn white, which disrupts the ecological balance of the reef.
Greenpeace Australia says politicians are facing the fact that they “cannot hide from the truth forever” and that the Great Barrier Reef is “paying the price” for the country’s failure to reduce carbon emissions.
“For too long, a succession of Australian prime ministers have hidden behind the big lie that you can protect the Great Barrier Reef without rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive David Ritter.