A reprieve, but the Great Barrier Reef remains on death row

21 June 2013

The Great Barrier Reef may have been spared the indignity of being listed as a World Heritage Area "in danger" this week, but the Reef's woes are just beginning, writes Associate Professor Tim Stephens.

In an article for The Conversation, Associate Professor Stephens asserts that there needs to be recognition and acceptance that the Great Barrier Reef will be severely damaged by rising sea temperatures from climate change.

In February 2013 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority responded to a 2012 report from UNESCO and the IUCN, whichwarned Australia that the reef would be placed on the "in danger" list unless developments proposed for the Queensland coast, such as new or expanded ports to facilitate coal exports, were curtailed or properly assessed.

"Several aspects of the Government's response have been subject to significant criticism, particularly in respect to Gladstone Harbour," Associate Professor Stephens writes.

"At the 2013 World Heritage session officials were satisfied that Australia was meeting some but not all of their recommendations.

"They gave Australia further opportunity before 2014 to show that it is meeting the Convention obligations.

"There's an ultimatum of sorts on development - any new coastal development with an impact on the Reef's heritage values will be considered a violation.

"The June 2013 decision of the World Heritage Committee has, like the 2012 decision, again preserved the status quo for the Reef.

"While recognising the threats to the Reef, those have not yet risen to a level that would allow the Committee to list the property on the "in danger" list.

"Without a move on climate change the reef will remain "in danger", and not just on the World Heritage list.

A reprieve, but the Great Barrier Reef remains on death row - The Conversation

Contact: Greg Sherington

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