Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A turtle swims among the coral of the Great Barrier Reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia on October 10, 2019. (Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'A Day of Shame': Australia Lobbying Thwarts Push to List Great Barrier Reef as Endangered

Greenpeace Australia called Friday's World Heritage Committee vote "a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history."

Jake Johnson

An intense lobbying campaign by the pro-fossil fuel Australian government succeeded Friday in keeping the Great Barrier Reef off a list of World Heritage Sites considered "in danger," despite experts' warnings that the biodiverse ecosystem is increasingly imperiled by the global climate emergency.

"The Great Barrier Reef is in danger, and trying to hide the facts won't change a thing."
—Lesley Hughes, Climate Council

The 21-nation World Heritage Committee—organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)—voted down a push to categorize the Great Barrier Reef as endangered, an effort that the right-wing Australian government fervently opposed with the backing of Saudi Arabia and other oil-friendly countries.

Instead of designating the Reef as "in danger," the World Heritage Committee on Friday instructed the government of Australia to produce a progress report on the structure's condition by February 2022.

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia, said in a statement that Friday's vote "is a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history."

"Under the UNESCO treaty, the Australian government promised the world it would do its utmost to protect the Reef—instead it has done its utmost to hide the truth," said Ritter. "This is not an achievement—it is a day of shame for the Australian government."

Lesley Hughes, a spokesperson for Climate Council, an Australia-based advocacy organization, slammed the government lobbying blitz and said lawmakers "must stop censoring science."

"The science is clear: climate change is accelerating and is the single, greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. In the past five years it has been repeatedly and severely damaged by three marine heatwaves," said Hughes, a professor of biology at Macquarie University in Sydney. "Until we see credible climate action, and the phasing out of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, this situation will worsen, not improve. The Great Barrier Reef is in danger, and trying to hide the facts won't change a thing."

Home to hundreds of types of coral and more than 1,000 species of fish, the Great Barrier Reef has been badly damaged in recent years by mass coral bleaching fueled by warming ocean temperatures—which is why scientists have been pushing Australia and the international community to formally recognize the system as endangered.

"Everyone knows the climate crisis is threatening the Reef. Delay is denial, and a sop to fossil fuels."
—Sarah Hanson-Young, Australian Greens

The World Heritage Committee's vote Friday came a month after UNESCO issued a report (pdf) warning that the Great Barrier Reef's condition has "further deteriorated from poor to very poor" due to human-caused climate change. The U.N. body advised that the reef be listed among the world's "in danger" sites—a call endorsed by scientists around the world.

UNESCO's recommendation sparked furious backlash from the Australian government, which launched an aggressive lobbying push to prevent the listing.

As The Guardian reported, "More than a dozen ambassadors flew from Canberra to Cairns, Queensland, for a snorkeling trip on the reef," and "Australia's environment minister, Sussan Ley, was dispatched to Europe on an RAAF diplomatic jet to visit Budapest, Madrid, Sarajevo, Paris, Oman, and the Maldives."

"Australia—a major producer and exporter of coal and gas—initially won support from oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, both members of the committee, to delay any decision on the danger listing until at least 2023," the outlet noted. "But after an interjection from Norway, the committee decided instead the reef's health would be considered again at next year's meeting."

Sarah Hanson-Young, an Australian senator with the Greens Party, warned following Friday's vote that "the decision to delay the 'in danger' listing for the Great Barrier Reef is ridiculous and will cost Australia in the long run."

"Everyone knows the climate crisis is threatening the Reef," she added. "Delay is denial, and a sop to fossil fuels."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

"The world is waiting for the USA to do what almost 100 countries have achieved during this past half-century—total abolition of the death penalty," said the group.

Julia Conley ·


Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·

Common Dreams Logo