By Colin Packham
CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Great Barrier Reef will not be added to a list of World Heritage sites that are “in danger” after a UN panel agreed to postpone the vote until 2022 amid intense lobbying from Australia.
Last month, a committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be classified as “endangered”, prompting an angry response from Australia.
Desperate to avoid a politically embarrassing classification for a tourist attraction that draws some 5 million people each year and supports nearly 70,000 jobs, Australia’s Environment Minister Sussan Ley traveled to more than a dozen countries in the last weeks to get support.
Speaking before the decision, Ley assured the panel of 21 countries that Canberra was committed to addressing climate change, one of the key factors in the initial recommendation.
“All Australians invest a lot in protecting our coral reef,” Ley said at the virtual meeting.
Soon after, committee members agreed to an amendment that would require Australia to produce an updated report on the status of the reef by February 2022, when a vote on whether to classify the site as endangered could follow.
Environmental groups criticized the decision.
“This is a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history,” said David Ritter, Executive Director of Greenpeace Australia.
“This is not an achievement, it is a day of infamy for the Australian government.”
Australia’s dependence on coal-fired power makes it one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita, but its conservative government has strongly backed the fossil fuel industries, saying tough action on emissions would cost jobs. job.
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