Print Friendly, PDF & Email

UNESCO to downgrade status of Great Barrier Reef; Australia blames political interference

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

UNESCO to downgrade status of Great Barrier Reef; Australia blames political interference:


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation committee has recommended that the Great Barrier Reef should be added to a list of “in danger” World Heritage Sites.

  • This is because of its dramatic coral decline.

What’s the issue now?

However, Australia has opposed this move, which is part of an ongoing dispute between Unesco and the Australian government over the status of the iconic site.

  • After Unesco first debated its “in danger” status in 2017, Canberra committed more than A$3 billion (£; $2.2bn) to improving the reef’s health.
  • However, several bleaching events on the reef in the past five years have caused widespread loss of coral.
  • Scientists say the main reason is rising sea temperatures as a result of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Australia’s carbon emissions:

Australia’s reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita, but its conservative government has steadfastly backed the country’s fossil fuel industries, arguing tougher action on emissions would cost jobs.

What are “in danger” World Heritage Sites?

The List of World Heritage in danger is maintained in accordance with Article 11 (4) of the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

Objective: The list is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.


A World Heritage property can be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the World Heritage Committee when it finds that the condition of the property corresponds to at least one of the criteria listed.

(Note: The criteria list is exhaustive. However, you need not mug up all of them. Just have a brief overview here).


  1. Inscribing a site on the List of World Heritage in Danger allows the World Heritage Committee to allocate immediate assistance from the World Heritage Fund to the endangered property.
  2. It alerts the international community to these situations in the hope that it can join efforts to save these endangered sites.
  3. It also requires the World Heritage Committee to develop and adopt, in consultation with the State Party concerned, a programme for corrective measures, and subsequently to monitor the situation of the site.

Some illustrative cases:

Iranian city of Bam: The ancient Citadel and surrounding cultural landscape of the Iranian city of Bam, where 26,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake of December 2003, was simultaneously inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2004. Important international efforts are mobilized to salvage the cultural heritage of this devastated city.


Insta Curious: 

Do you remember the Declaration on World Heritage? Read Here 



Prelims Link:

  1. About the Great Barrier Reef, location and significance.
  2. What is a World Heritage site?
  3. What are sites “in Danger”?
  4. What is the tentative list?
  5. What are mixed world Heritage sites?

Mains Link:

What is Coral bleaching? How it is affecting coral reefs across the world. Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.