UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is in the final days of its annual meeting. Last week’s decisions on the Great Barrier Reef have profound implications for its future protection and pose some tough questions for Environment Minister Tony Burke.
The 21 countries of the World Heritage Committee endorsed the recommendations of the March Monitoring Mission, and three made statements about the global importance of the Reef, urging a “highly precautionary” approach to its conservation.
The delegation from India, home to GVK and Adani, two key companies driving in Queensland’s coal export expansion urged that “abundant precautionary principles should be applied.”
The committee adopted the conclusions of the mission report which states that “decisive and immediate action is required to secure [the Reef’s] Outstanding Universal Value over the long-term…” in part due to extensive proposed coastal development.
If “decisive and immediate action” is not taken, the Reef could be placed on the list of World Heritage properties “in Danger” next year – an international humiliation for our country.
The Committee concluded that Australia should “ensure that development is not permitted if it would impact individually or cumulatively on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.”
New criteria have been established against which the Outlook for the reef should be measured, and which must be included in the Strategic Assessment of the area – currently being developed by the Queensland Government and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. This will be considered by the Committee in mid-2015 and in the meantime, the decision urges Australia to “prevent any approval of major projects that may compromise the outcomes of the Strategic Assessment”.
It would be evident to most Australians that building the world’s biggest coal ports at Abbot Point and Hay Point constitute “major projects that may compromise the outcomes of the Strategic Assessment”.
Source: greenpeace, July 9, 2012; Image: aurecongroup