Story at a glance

  • On Friday, the World Heritage Committee decided against downgrading the reef’s status to “in danger.”
  • The committee, which is made up of 21 countries, requested Australia produce a report on the state of conservation of the reef by February 2022.
  • A decision on whether to downgrade the reef’s status will be considered at the next World Heritage Committee meeting in 2023.

The Great Barrier Reef will not be added to the list of World Heritage Sites considered to be “in danger” for now, a temporary win for the Australian government that has strongly opposed the decision. 

The U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report last month recommending the World Heritage Committee downgrade the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem’s status, as it has suffered from coral bleaching caused by warming ocean temperatures over the past several years. 

“There is no possible doubt that the property is facing ascertained danger,” the report said

On Friday, the World Heritage Committee decided against placing the reef on the list and is instead asking for a report on the Australian government’s efforts to conserve the reef, according to The Associated Press

The committee, which is made up of 21 countries, requested Australia produce a report on the state of conservation of the reef by February 2022. A decision on whether to downgrade the reef’s status will be considered at the next World Heritage Committee meeting in 2023. 

In the meantime, UNESCO will embark on a monitoring mission to inspect the reef in the coming months. 


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“Delegates, we ask only two things: time for experts to see first hand our commitment to the reef, its present condition and our management, and for the final climate policy to provide a consistent framework for addressing the impacts of climate change on all World Heritage properties,” Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley said during the committee meeting. 

The decision by the committee follows an aggressive lobbying effort from the Australian government to oppose the designation, including taking ambassadors on a snorkeling trip to the reef. 

Ley also traveled to Europe to convince World Heritage members to vote against the measure. 

Australia voiced strong opposition to the recommendation last month, as the downgrade could damage its tourism industry and increase international pressure on the country to take tougher measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 


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Published on Jul 23, 2021