UN “in danger” Reef recommendation a wake up call for governments

29 November 2022 

Greater government intervention is needed to protect the Great Barrier Reef, after UNESCO expert panel last night reported their assessment that the criteria have been met to place the iconic World Heritage Area on its “in danger” list, following its reactive Reef monitoring mission earlier this year. 

The expert report said Queensland and Australian Governments need to legislate increased emission reduction targets immediately to protect the Great Barrier Reef, as well as rejecting reef damaging dams such as Urannah and Hells Gate.   

These recommendations are the strongest signal yet that the Great Barrier Reef desperately needs action from all levels of government. Receiving an “in-danger” listing means that the World Heritage Committee would review the health of the Reef annually, could request additional conservation actions and could remove the Reef’s “world Heritage” listing. 

Queensland Conservation Council Director, Dave Copeman, says:

“If the Australian Government wants to prevent the reef being listed as in danger, their obligations are clear. A UNESCO signatory must do “all it can.., to the utmost of its own resources”, to protect the Great Barrier Reef from warming waters caused by climate change, as well as water quality impacts of farming, dams and land clearing. 

“The Great Barrier Reef is a gift to Queensland. It brings billions of dollars every year to Queensland communities, while supporting millions of species and protecting our shores from worsening climate impacts. The Reef is also of vital cultural importance to our First Nations communities.

“The Queensland Government and Federal Labor government have demonstrated increased leadership on climate change since the experts visited in February 2022, including a plan to close all coal power stations in Qld, increased emissions targets and a strong commitment to address climate change at national and international levels. 

“This report indicates that the reef is in danger, and they have until the UNESCO committee meets in June/July 2023 to demonstrate further action that meets the standard of protection necessary. UNESCO’s world-leading experts have made it clear; to protect the Reef, we need to rapidly cut climate emissions and care for our forests and waterways that support our Reef. 

UNESCO has recommended Australia aligns its emission reduction target with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. To achieve this, we need to reject all proposals for new coal and gas projects. We must put the health of our Reef and climate ahead of projects that continue to line the pockets of coal and gas billionaires which are currently exploiting households in the cost of living crisis.

“That means we need to cut Australia’s emissions by at least 74% by 2030, a big jump on the current targets of 43% and 30% for Australia and Queensland respectively. We can’t achieve the protection of the reef without ending the approval of new coal and gas. 


Dave Copeman – 0408 841 595