On Tuesday, UNESCO welcomed Australia’s willingness to invest 2.7 billion euros to protect the Great Barrier Reef, ending years of standoff with Canberra over its inclusion among “at risk” World Heritage sites. “I am delighted that the ongoing dialogue between our experts and the Australian authorities is now being reflected in official commitments,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, in a press release.
A “fundamental change” in the position of the Australian government
In 2021, UNESCO threatened to include the Great Barrier Reef, which is threatened by global warming, on the list of World Heritage Sites “in danger”. The former Australian government, which considered itself the victim of an insult, had shown rare ferocity in combating the measure. Former environment minister Susan Lee has stated that it is a “mistake” to put “the world’s best managed coral reefs on the ‘at risk’ list”.
The response of the Australian Conservative government was unusually violent. (…) No discussion was possible. We’ve been in a position of scientific expertise, and they’ve positioned themselves on the diplomatic level,” notes one UNESCO executive. This diplomat hailed the “radical change” between executive director Scott Morrison and Labor prime minister Anthony Albanese, who has been in charge since May 2022. He favored The latter “dialogue” and made “the most comprehensive commitments to respond to the recommendations of the United Nations.”
2.7 billion euros and abandoned projects
In a letter to the United Nations Foundation dated May 25 and seen by AFP, Tanya Plibersek, the current environment minister, announced an “investment” of A$4.4 billion (€2.7 billion) “to ensure the future of the Great Barrier”. Among the promised measures are the creation of “fishing-free zones” in a third of the site by 2025, a “significant” reduction in pollutant discharges from farmers and industrialists or even a reduction in the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to UNESCO. .
The Labor government also announced in October the abandonment of two dam projects and, this past February, the abandonment of a coal mine project, all close to this maritime splendor. But “no one can say whether or not this will be enough to save the site in the coming decades,” notes the UN expert. Because “the issue of water temperature, which is one of the (destroying) factors, does not depend solely on the commitments undertaken by Australia.”
“Travel aficionado. Incurable bacon specialist. Tv evangelist. Wannabe internet enthusiast. Typical creator.”