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Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’, claims legal report



An expert legal report prepared by US-based Earthjustice and Environmental Justice Australia has claimed that the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, countering a draft decision by UNESCO.

The report comes just weeks after UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee said that the reef – one of Australia’s biggest tourist attractions – was not in danger, but that it should be afforded more protection.

Earthjustice and Environmental Justice Australia claim that the reef meets as many as 6 out of the 8 criteria for an “in danger” listing.

This counteracts the draft decision that was made by the committee not to inscribe the reef onto the List of World Heritage in Danger.

UNESCO issued a draft report saying that coastal development, pollution and climate change represent major threats to the Great Barrier Reef, whose status “has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate in the future”. It concluded that Australian authorities had to come up with a 35 year plan for its conservation.

But lawyers at the NGOs complied the reports that contradicted the decision.

“Our legal analysis finds that the Reef meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger,” said Ariane Wilkinson, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia.

“The World Heritage Convention provides that, for a World Heritage site to be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the World Heritage Committee, it needs to be threatened by serious and specific dangers.”

She added, “To assess these dangers, there are eight criteria for natural properties under the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, and if the Committee finds that the condition of the property corresponds to at least one of these criteria, it can inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.”

Image: Paul Toogood via Flickr

Further reading:

Great Barrier Reef not ‘in danger’ but more protection needed, says UNESCO

UNESCO concerned over Australia’s decision on dumping coal waste in Great Barrier Reef waters

Climate change is the biggest threat to Great Barrier Reef

Australian MP says he ‘got it wrong’ on dumping coal waste on Great Barrier Reef

Australian environment minister admits climate change threat to Great Barrier Reef