Great Barrier Reef's survival depends on us

August 12, 2021
Extinction Rebellion in action. Photo: Miles Tweedie Photography

A snap action organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR) Western Australia on August 7 highlighted the fact that the Great Barrier Reef remains in great danger.

The “Saving Nemo” action included protesters criticising Prime Minister Scott Morrison and environment minister Sussan Ley for ensuring the endangered coral reef stayed off the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee “in danger” list in July.

UNESCO, the United Nations science and culture organisation, had recommended in late June that the reef’s status be downgraded to “in danger”.

Ley undertook an eight-day in person lobbying trip to Hungary, France, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Oman and the Maldives. She also met ambassadors from 18 countries, either face-to-face or virtually.

In the end, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Hungary, Mali, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, Uganda voted with Australia.

XR activists said the reef at risk of bleaching and each new coal or gas mine contributes to global warming which destroys the reef. There have been three mass coral bleaching events in five years.

UNESCO will undertake on-the-ground monitoring of the reef in coming months.

The World Heritage Committee is still concerned, however. It noted “the long-term outlook for the ecosystem of the property has further deteriorated from poor to very poor” and that “progress has been largely insufficient in meeting key targets of the Reef 2050 Plan, in particular the water quality and land management targets”.

Further, it stated that “accelerated action at all possible levels is required to address the threat from climate change”.

XR, along with many other groups and individuals, want the survival of the largest coral reef system and the biggest living structure on the planet to be prioritised over the profits of the fossil fuel corporations.

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