Urgent Challenges: Great Barrier Reef’s Precarious State

Unesco's Recommendations Highlight Threats and Efforts to Preserve the Iconic Coral System

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Under Serious Threat, but Not Listed “In Danger”

UN scientific advisors have recommended that the Great Barrier Reef should not be classified as a World Heritage site “in danger.” However, they stress that the world’s largest coral reef system remains under a “serious threat” due to global heating and water pollution.

Positive Steps Taken, but Urgent Action Needed

Unesco’s report acknowledges that the Australian government has taken positive measures to protect the reef since a UN monitoring mission last year. Nevertheless, Australia has been put on notice, and the government is required to submit a progress report in February before the reef is reconsidered for inscription on the “in danger” list in 2024.

While the Australian government claims the report is confirmation of its efforts to combat climate change and protect the reef, the report emphasizes the need for urgent and sustained action to improve the long-term resilience of the reef.

Challenges and Recommendations

The UN mission report from last year listed several steps that federal and state governments should take to safeguard the reef, including enhancing water quality, implementing sustainable fishing strategies, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Unesco’s report welcomes Australia’s commitment to spend $1.2 billion to reduce nutrients and fertilizers running into the reef’s waters. However, it calls for a “drastic shift” to meet water quality targets, as progress in this area remains slow.

Concerns Over Bleaching Events

The report raises concerns about the potential impact of a predicted El Niño climate system, which may increase the risk of another mass bleaching event on the reef this summer. The sequence of bleaching events in recent years, particularly in 2022 during a La Niña year, is of utmost concern.

Unesco is recommending that Australia provide a progress report in February on efforts to reduce pollution and fishing threats. As the world’s attention remains on the Great Barrier Reef, urgent action is required to protect this natural wonder for future generations.


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