Great Barrier Reef escapes ‘in danger’ listing after intense Australian lobby

An aerial photograph of the Great Barrier Reef.
23 July 2021

After intense lobbying by the Australian government, the World Heritage Committee today decided against listing the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) as “in danger,” as UNESCO had recommended in June.

“The science is clear” that the reef is in perilous condition, marine ecologist Terry Hughes of James Cook University, Townsville, tweeted in response, calling the committee decision “a travesty.”

UNESCO had recommended the GBR be listed as “in danger” not only because the reef was battered by major bleaching events in 2016, 2017, and 2020, but also because of Australia’s foot dragging in addressing climate change. But Sussan Ley, Australia’s environment minister, mounted a last-minute, global campaign to avert the move. In the run-up to the virtual meeting, officially held in Fuzhou, China, Ley contacted representatives of 18 of the 21 member countries of the World Heritage Committee either in person—by visiting Hungary, France, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Oman, and the Maldives—or virtually.

Read the full article on the Science website, featuring Emeritus Prof Will Steffen