The United Nations team said on Tuesday that the Great Barrier Reef should be included on the World Heritage List “at risk”, which prompted an angry response from Australia, which said the proposal was politically motivated.
Over the years, Australia has been lobbying vigorously, hoping to exclude it from the endangered list, because this may cause the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem to lose its UN heritage status, thereby reducing its attractiveness to tourists.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Committee stated in its recommendations that action is needed to deal with the effects of climate change, because the prospects for retaining this precious status of coral reefs have deteriorated.
At the invitation of Australia, a UNESCO representative visited an unspoiled coral reef in 2015, but scientists said that since then, there have been three major coral bleaching events due to severe ocean heat waves.
The minister said that the decision was “defective”
Environment Minister Susan Ley defended Australia’s efforts to protect coral reefs and said Canberra will challenge the proposal, saying some hidden agendas have affected its findings.
“This decision is flawed. Obviously there are political factors behind it,” Ley said, adding that Australia has expressed its concerns to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
China is the chairman of the UNESCO committee, but when asked in Parliament, Ley declined to say whether she was accusing Beijing.
An unnamed government official told Reuters that China is responsible for the committee’s position.
“We will appeal, but China is under control,” the source said.
China refuses to admit that it supports this move.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily press conference in Beijing: “What you are talking about is an unprovoked smear of China.” He added that this accusation is similar to other accusations against China with “ulterior motives”?? .
The Chinese Embassy in Canberra did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Relationship fell to the bottom
After Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, relations with China, Australia’s largest export customer, have deteriorated to a low point in recent years.
Environmental groups have turned a deaf ear to the role of politics in adverse proposals, saying that it is clear that Australia is not doing enough to protect coral reefs. “No government can provide any advice. This recommendation was made by a world-renowned scientist,” said Richard Lake, the head of oceans at the World Wide Fund for Nature in Australia.
Lake is one of a group of environmentalists who lobbied the 13 members of the UNESCO team to agree to the proposal, which will now be considered by all 21 countries of the committee.
Despite being a member of the group, if a consensus cannot be reached, Australia will be barred from voting by the convention.
Australia’s reliance on coal-fired power generation has made it one of the countries with the largest carbon emissions per capita in the world, but its conservative government firmly supports the fossil fuel industry, saying that stricter actions on emissions will result in job losses.
How the government responds to the threat of losing UN heritage status may also affect domestic politics, as approximately 5 million people visit the Great Barrier Reef every year, supporting nearly 70,000 jobs in Queensland.
When Morrison returns to the polls next year and seeks a fourth consecutive term for his party, the northeastern states will become the main battlefield.