In a joint report, Environmental Justice Australia and Earthjustice, US have claimed that Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef meets ‘in danger’ criteria questioning the World Heritage Committee’s recent draft decision not to inscribe the Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Environmental Justice Australia, through its expert legal report, claims that the Reef has met as many as 6 out of the 8 critera for an in danger listing.
According to the guidelines set by The World Heritage Convention, a World Heritage site can be be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the World Heritage Committee if it is threatened by serious and specific dangers. For this, there are eight criteria for natural properties under the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the Convention.
If the Committee finds that the condition of the property corresponds to at least one of these criteria, it can inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The two groups note in the report that although the natural beauty of the Reef is still largely intact, scientific researches have shown that the overall outlook of the Reef is poor and that it is in danger. The deterioration of the Reef has been attributed to cumulative effects of coastal development such as industrial ports, ocean acidification, global warming, and water pollution. The report notes that the overall Reef cover has decreased in the last 40 years.
The report notes that the condition of the Great Barrier Reef clearly meets 5 of the 8 criteria, and arguably meets a sixth, meaning six of eight possible red flags have been raised.
With the World Heritage Committee due to make its final decision on the Reef in July, an in danger listing either this year, or in 2017 if stronger action is not taken, remains a real possibility
If the World Heritage system is to have any value, it must address the most serious threats to the most iconic examples of world heritage.
If any site falls into this category, it is the threatened Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef on the planet and one of its richest and most complex ecosystems. The World Heritage Committee should step up to ensure that this unique and threatened part of humanity’s world heritage is not lost forever.