UNESCO has released a report warning that the Great Barrier Reef is still under “serious threat” of further degradation and bleaching events, urging the Federal Government to take greater action to reduce emissions.
As global temperatures continue to rise, the Great Barrier Reef is once again under threat from marine heatwaves and the mass bleaching events that follow. The reef has already suffered four such events since 2016.
UNESCO said while Australia has set more ambitious emissions reductions targets, in an effort to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C, as per the Paris Agreement, that more must be done urgently.
The State of conservation of properties inscribed on the of World Heritage List report recognised a number of the efforts made by Australia already, including:
- Investing in water quality monitoring and regulating
- Committing $32.6 million to climate science and emissions modelling
- Rejecting and cancelling a number of mine and dam project commitments due to projected impacts on water quality (such as the Central Queensland Coal Mine, and Hells Gate and Urannah Dams)
- Implementing the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy (QSFS)
- Committing to establish a ‘net free’ zone, declaring ‘no-take’ species (such as the hammerhead shark), and implement further Sustainable Fisheries Strategies to limit the impacts of overfishing
Although UNESCO stated that these and other efforts were appreciated, the Great Barrier Reef remains in serious danger, and that strong, sustained action is required to improve the long term resilience and recovery of the area.
The report recommends a drastic shift to attain the 2025 water quality targets for fine sediment and dissolved inorganic nitrogen, and the effective implementation of the QSFS and a full phase out of gillnet fisheries in the area.
It also states that measures to ensure carbon credit schemes deliver net benefits and that adaptation mechanisms at the scale required to increase resilience should also be deployed.
UNESCO is expecting a progress report to be submitted by the Federal Government in February 2024.
For more information, read the full UNESCO report here.