Why Australia doesn't want to list the Great Barrier Reef as endangered

Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef Lea McQuillan/500px/Getty Images

The U.N. has recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be added to the list of endangered World Heritage sites, however, Australia is pushing back. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report on Monday saying that without "ambitious, rapid and sustained" climate action, the reef is at risk of falling victim to climate change.

Australia's environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, is arguing against the designation claiming that the report's description of the country's climate inaction is only reflective of its previous conservative government, reports The Associated Press. "We'll very clearly make the point to UNESCO that there is no need to single the Great Barrier Reef out in this way," she said.

The purpose of the designation would be to encourage more conservation action, which Plibersek argues is already being done, writes The Washington Post. She said the government has already designated close to $800 million to protect the reef. "The reason that UNESCO in the past has singled out a place as at risk is because they wanted to see greater government investment or greater government action," Plibersek explained. "Both of those things have happened."

UNESCO agreed that a designation may hinder tourism to the site because it could cause it to be removed from the list of World Heritage sites, however, it also believes listing the reef could allow Australia to become "a world leader in conserving globally significant natural heritage."

"If this World Heritage site is in danger, then most World Heritage sites around the world are in danger from climate change," Plibersek says.

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