Australia has described a draft resolution by the United Nations World Heritage Committee to list the Great Barrier Reef as being politically motivated.
The committee, chaired by Tian Xiujun, China’s vice minister of education, which selects UNESCO World Heritage sites, has proposed adding the world’s largest collection of coral reefs to the risk list due to harmful effect to climate change and coastal development.
The designation could eventually cause the reef to lose its World Heritage status, although officials said the inclusion was intended to urge emergency action to protect a living structure stretching 2,300 km along Australia’s east coast.
But Susan Lee, Australia’s environment minister, said the government was “shocked” by the commission’s findings and claimed there was a lack of consultation and transparency. She added that Canberra would appeal the draft decision.
“When procedures are not followed, when the process is turned upside down five minutes before the draft decision is due to be published, when the assurances my officials have received have, in fact, been turned upside down, what can you conclude but that it is policy?” She said.
The chairmanship of the World Heritage Committee by a high-ranking Chinese official has raised suspicions in Canberra that it has been singled out in particular for its diplomatic and domestic work. Trade clash with Beijing.
Relations between China and Australia soured after Canberra’s call last year to investigate the origins of Covid-19 and Beijing’s imposition of tariffs on Australian wine and barley imports.
Lee said she and Marise Payne, the Australian foreign minister, had already spoken with Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO, to complain about the draft.
But scientists have played down the suggestion that “at-risk” List They were politically motivated. They said three mass bleaching events in five years showed the government needed to do more to tackle climate change.
“I see some press coverage saying this is all a conspiracy by China not to buy wine and lobsters and to destroy the barrier reef. I think that’s a long way off because the overnight draft will be voted on,” said Terry Hughes, a professor of marine biology at James Cook University. It is approved by 21 countries.
The controversy will lead to more international blocs Click on Canberra, which has been pressured by the US, UK and other countries to commit to a national target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
In a draft resolution due to be voted on next month, the committee urged Canberra to “make clear commitments to address threats from climate change, consistent with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and to allow for faster achievement of water quality goals”.
She noted the loss of nearly a third of shallow-water coral cover after a “bleaching” event in 2016 – a process associated with warmer-than-normal waters that can lead to mass die of coral.
The row over the “in danger” list occurred at a difficult time for the Australian conservative coalition, which is embroiled in an internal dispute over climate policies.
On Monday, Barnaby Joyce, a climate skeptic and supporter of coal miners, ousted Michael McCormack to become leader of the National Party, junior coalition partner of the Liberal Party, and Australian deputy prime minister. Joyce is expected to oppose any move to commit to net zero by 2050.