'Call to arms': Environmentalists urge UNESCO to protect Great Barrier Reef

Environmentalists are urging UNESCO to protect the Great Barrier Reef for future generations and list it as “in danger”.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter spoke to Yahoo News Australia ahead of the World Heritage Committee vote in China this evening, as the government continues petitioning delegates to oppose the declaration.

“It's a golden opportunity to give the reef a fighting chance,” Mr Ritter said.

“There is no question that by any reasonable assessment, the Great Barrier Reef is in danger.”

Greenpeace's David Ritter is hoping the Reef is listed as
Greenpeace's David Ritter is hoping the Reef is listed as "in danger" so it can get the attention it needs. Source: Getty / AAP

Accusing the federal government of “recklessness and negligence” in its ongoing support of the fossil fuel industry, Mr Ritter said listing the Reef would “shine an unprecedented light” on their conduct.

“I'm genuinely struggling to keep the emotions at bay about this one, it’s just so extraordinary that we have to be in this situation,” he said.

Mr Ritter said with with three mass bleaching events of the Reef in the past six years that have led to 60 per cent of the corals being impacted, there is “no question” that the Reef is in danger.

“The government's own scientists found the Reef's condition to be very poor and deteriorating, and the projections of global climate scientists are that if we do not achieve rapid emissions cuts in line with the Paris climate goals, the world's coral reefs will be wiped out,” he said.

“Bearing all these things in mind, it is difficult to think of how much more in danger the reef could possibly be.”

Government says Reef is best managed in world

Earlier this week the Federal Environment Department said it was “still too early” to confirm reports that the government had the numbers to delay a vote on the listing, but said they welcomed support received from a number of nations.

They said their $111 million work plan for 2020 / 2021 would keep the nation on track for its 2025 water quality target, and that the Reef is supported by more than $3 billion in state and federal funding.

“The World Heritage Committee has commended Australia’s efforts to protect the Reef and we will continue to ensure it is the best managed Reef in the world,” the spokesperson said.

The government says the Great Barrier Reef is the best managed in the world and should not be listed as
The government says the Great Barrier Reef is the best managed in the world and should not be listed as "in danger". Source: Getty

David Cazzulino of the Australian Marine Conservation Society said the government’s approach to fight the listing was “out of step” with the rest of the world.

While he believes the UNESCO listing would ensure the Reef got the “attention and support” needed to protect the Reef from threats including climate change, the government appears to see the move as an “international embarrassment”.

“It's trying at all costs to avoid an endangered listing, instead of just taking the action that we so desperately need,” he said.

“This would be a call to arms for the world and Australia to act on climate change to give the reef the best chance for the future.”

More on the Great Barrier Reef

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