The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released its long-awaited report on the reef on Tuesday following a 10-day visit in March, calling for ambitious, swift and sustained action to protect it.
It made 22 recommendations, 10 of which it said must be addressed with the utmost urgency, including a call for the government to update its climate change targets to be consistent with stopping warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. .
The ruling Labor Party, which won power in May, has pledged to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
However, to stop global warming at 1.5 degrees, experts have said Australia must cut emissions by 74 percent.
The UNESCO report found that the acidity of the Great Barrier Reef’s water has increased by 26 percent, while water quality targets have not been met.
It recommends urgent action to stop sediment runoff, a ban on destructive gillnet fishing, and a reduction in runoff from banana and sugarcane farming.
The report’s recommendation that the reef is officially listed as “endangered” will be considered with submissions from the federal and Queensland governments before UNESCO makes a final decision on its status.
Responding to the report, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nita Green, the special envoy for the reef, said the government has taken significant steps to protect the reef in the six months since it gained power.
“We understand that people who live and work on the reef may find the report alarming,” they said in a joint statement.
“With the election of the new Labor government, Australia has stepped up to play its part, working in partnership with the Queensland government.” ■