Australia is fighting a UN warning that the Great Barrier Reef is at “identified risk.”

The Great Barrier Reef is at risk of losing its World Heritage status after a draft assessment by the UN World Heritage Committee claimed on Monday that Australia was not doing enough to protect it from the impact of climate change.

The report states the site suffered severe coral bleaching, caused by abnormally warm sea temperatures, in 2016, 2017 and last year.

“The Australian government cannot save the Great Barrier Reef by itself,” said Unesco’s Douvere, adding that Canberra might move to improve the reef’s water quality, improving its resilience to climate change.

What would be Australia’s next step?

Any downgrading of the reef to World Heritage status could also weaken the revenue from tourism that comes from the natural wonder and unsettle pride Australians have in their country, coupled with confidence in their government’s ability to take care of the reef’s ecosystem.

The downgrading of the Great Barrier Reef prompted environmental groups to target the Australian government’s unwillingness to take stronger climate action.

The country’s environment minister, Sussan Ley, said Australia would contest the move and accused U.N. representatives of retracting their assurances ahead of the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee in China next month, where the recommendation will be formalized.

World Heritage Site

A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization . (wikipedia)

Great Barrier Reef

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The world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (wikipedia)

World Heritage Committee

Selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund (wikipedia)

Sussan Ley

Sussan Penelope Ley is an Australian Liberal Party politician serving as Minister for the Environment since 2019, and has served as Member of Parliament for Farrer since 2001. (wikipedia)

World Heritage in Danger

The List of World Heritage in Danger is compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization through the World Heritage Committee according to Article 11. (wikipedia)

United Nations

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, (wikipedia)