UNESCO says Great Barrier Reef not 'in danger' despite extensive bleaching

The Great Barrier Reef will not be listed as "in danger" by UNESCO following intense lobbying by the Federal Government.

After a spate of coral bleaching events which impacted 60 per cent of corals on the Reef, the World Heritage Committee met tonight to consider a decision.

Environmentalists had forecast that the history making vote would have embarrassed the government and its record on climate change.

UNESCO will not list the Great Barrier Reef as in danger. Source: Getty
UNESCO will not list the Great Barrier Reef as in danger. Source: Getty

Australia's Environment Minister Sussan Ley left for Europe after the draft announcement was made in June, to lobby voting nations to vote against the recommendation.

She also invited a number of delegates to witness the health of the Reef first hand and take part in snorkelling.

“This has never been about Australia hiding from the challenges facing the Reef or the pressures of climate change, it has been about ensuring a fair and transparent process for the Reef and the people who work tirelessly to protect it,” Minister Ley said.

Environmentalists respond to decision

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter responded to the decision, saying it was not "an achievement", but "a day of infamy for the Australian government".

“Under the UNESCO treaty, the Australian government promised the world it would do its utmost to protect the Reef - instead it has done its utmost to hide the truth,” he said.

“This is a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history."

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the government will be under pressure when the Reef's status is reviewed in 12 months.

The group's World Heritage Consultant Imogen Zethoven said the Reef remains in danger from "rising sea temperatures, poor water quality and unsustainable fishing practices".

“The Morrison government must face up to its climate responsibilities," she said.

"The government has been swamped by a deluge of reports and scientific evidence, often from its own agencies, warning of the dangers of climate change for the Reef, and we’ve seen the consequences of global heating in the three mass bleaching events in five years."

How the Reef almost became listed as 'in danger'

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