The Australian government insists it is committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization warned that the reef’s world heritage status could be downgraded to “in danger” in 2014.
A year ago, UNESCO told the Australian government that the GBR’s heritage status was at risk because a number of liquefied natural gas, tourism and mining projects were threatening the reef’s health. Over the past year, UNESCO says little has been done to address these concerns.
“Progress on several recommendations, including those related to water quality and measures to prevent coastal development ... remains limited,” UNESCO says.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the government has taken steps to increase protection of the world’s largest coral reef, including approving $206 million in funding for a Reef Rescue water-quality project.
World Wildlife Fund spokesman Richard Leck said UNESCO had put Australia in the “sin bin” (a reference to rugby's penalty box). And Australia’s Greens party says UNESCO has given the Australian government a wake-up call, noting that most sites on the "in-danger" list are in developing nations or war zones.
The only other world heritage sites in danger that aren’t in a developing country or an active war zone are the U.K.’s Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City and Florida’s Everglades.