The UN’s world heritage committee has decided to put on hold a decision about whether list the Great Barrier Reef in Australia as endangered because of the threats it faces around pollution and urbanisation.
World heritage centre director Kishore Rao said that the committee was pleased to see Australia was increasing its efforts to protect the reef and deferred the decision until February 2015.
“Unesco is confident the overall direction towards next year’s decision is a positive one”, he said.
The UN body had previously expressed concern over plans by the Australian government of dumping dredged sediment from a new coal port terminal in the reef, which was the reason why it considered putting the place on the endangered list.
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Unesco has instead decided to wait until next year and asked Australia to submit a report with progress made on protecting the reef by February 1 2015.
Queensland’s environment minister Andrew Powell said that Unesco’s decision was a “win for logic and science rather than rhetoric and scaremongering”.
He added, “I am extremely comfortable that we will tick all the boxes that UNESCO is seeking us to tick.”
Commenting on the decision, WWF Australia Reef campaigner Richard Leck said, “The world heritage committee has resisted intense pressure from the Australian and Queensland governments to water down its decision on the Reef.
“Instead, the committee has put Australia firmly on notice to take stronger action to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
“The Australian and Queensland governments must take responsibility, lift their game and improve management of the Reef. If not they face the shame of having the Reef declared ‘world heritage in danger’ in 2015, putting at risk thousands of tourism jobs.”
The committee is also due to make a decision over a proposal to have 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest delisted in order to open it up to the timber industry.
Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickr