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Asia Minute: UN Says Australia's Great Barrier Reef Is 'In Danger'

Wise Hok Wai Lum
Wikimedia Commons

Restoring coral reefs is a goal for many researchers and groups across Hawai‘i and around the world. That includes scientists working on the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of northeastern Australia, but those efforts have come under criticism this week.

A United Nations committee says Australia is not doing enough to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Australia’s government says that claim is about politics, not science.

The U.N. World Heritage Committee put the Great Barrier Reef on a draft list of properties that are “in danger.”

The report says the U.N. might need to put “corrective measures” in place because Australia “on its own cannot address the threats of climate change.”

That could lead to the reef losing its status as a World Heritage site—with potential impacts stretching to tourism.

Australia’s Environment Minister says, “Politics have subverted a proper process.”

The 21-nation U.N. committee is now chaired by China. But several environmental groups also say Australia has not done enough to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Domestic politics are also at play. Australia’s conservative coalition government has not committed to climate goals but is under increasing pressure to do so.

The government has not set a date for net-zero carbon emissions. In fact, the country has not updated its climate goals since 2015.

Australia’s new Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce who just came into office this week is expected to oppose any climate commitments.

A final decision on the U.N. determination about the Great Barrier Reef is expected next month.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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