Somehow Our Federal Environment Minister Is Surprised That The Great Barrier Reef Is “In Danger”

UNESCO has recommended the Great Barrier Reef be listed as "in danger’" due to climate change -- which has apparently "blindsided" our Environment Minister.

Great Barrier Reef

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Australians have woken up today to the news that UNESCO has finally recommended the Great Barrier Reef be listed as ‘in danger’, due to climate change.

It’s a pretty unsurprising development from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, given the reef’s deterioration over the last decade  — unsurprising to everyone except Australia’s Federal Environment Minister, who is completely shocked.

Yep, Australians also woke up to the news that our Environment Minister Sussan Ley not only strongly opposes UNESCO’s draft decision but says Australia has been totally “blindsided” by the recommendation.

You had one job…

What’s Happened With The GBR

For context, it was the World Heritage Committee, which sits under UNESCO, that proposed moving the Great Barrier Reef onto the list of world heritage sites that are “in danger”.

The purpose of the suggestion is to put pressure on Australia to take “action at all possible levels” on climate change and to do the obvious, save Australia’s beloved dying reef.

But in a completely unexpected move, Australia’s very own Environment Minister Sussan Ley, labelled the decision by UNESCO as “politically motivated” and argued that Australia has been “singled out” against dozens of other World Heritage-listed sites also considered at risk.

“It is almost unheard of for a site to be added to the endangered list, or recommended… without the necessary consultation leading up to it.”

Much to everyone’s dismay, Ley continued to say “we are blindsided by a sudden late decision”.

She then went on to accuse UNESCO of not following normal procedures and that the process of this decision was “turned on its head five minutes before the draft decision [was] due to be published.”

“What else can you conclude but that it is politics?”

Other Times Our Environment Minister Hasn’t Worked For The Environment

This isn’t the first time our Federal Environment Minister has decided to go against recommendations that would safeguard the future of our environment.

In fact, Minister Ley seems to find it quite hard to list anything as endangered, which is a pretty weird attitude to have as a minister for environment working during a climate crisis.

To give an example, it was recommended by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) that koalas be listed as endangered species, following the devastating Black Summer bushfires in late 2019 through to early 2020.

Koalas are currently listed only as “vulnerable” on the east coast of Australia, and to change that status to “endangered” requires the Minister’s approval, which she is yet to give.

Instead Minister Ley has said that the government understands koalas needed help to recover, and in one good move, has announced an $18 million package for koalas. But she still won’t declare the animals as endangered, which seems a bit suss.

In response, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has said the minister should “go with the science”.

She is also rejecting a massive renewable energy project proposed for the Pilbara area in Western Australia, calling it “unacceptable” because of its potential impact to wetlands and species — despite the plan still undergoing environmental studies.

The $50bn energy hub is expected to be the world’s largest renewable project, and a really promising step for Australia’s future on climate change — but now has to update their plans based on the Minister’s concerns.

What Are People Saying About The Latest

Pretty much, no one is agreeing with Minister Ley wanting to pull the plug on UNESCO’s draft plan for the Great Barrier Reef and totally debunks the “we were blindsided” narrative she is fuelling.

Imogen Zethon, an environmental consultant to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, told the ABC that “I don’t think anyone could be surprised that UNESCO has come up with this draft decision to put [it] on the ‘in danger’ list.” And totally rejects Ley’s claim that the listing recommendation was a political move against Australia.

“Last year the [International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN], which is the advisory body to the World Heritage Committee, identified that because of climate change the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef was now critical,” Zethon said.

Similar sentiment is being shared on social media.

In defence, the Environment Minister has said that the government was already taking extensive measures to combat climate change, which is one of the greatest threats to the reef.

The draft decision for the Great Barrier Reef’s future status, will be considered at a meeting in China next month, and Minister Ley has declared that Australia will challenge the decision when it is put before the full committee in July.