Saudi Arabia, Bahrain back Australia in UNESCO challenge

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain lobbying to keep Great Barrier Reef off UNESCO 'in danger' list: report
2 min read
14 July, 2021
Australia has been lobbying to push back the key decision until at least 2023 and now has the support of the two oil-rich Middle East nations - both of whom are members of the World Heritage Committee. 
The Great Barrier Reef is composed of 3,000 individual reef systems providing life to ancient sea turtles, fish and at least 400 different types of corals [Getty]

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have pledged to support the Australian government’s efforts to keep the Great Barrier Reef off a list of world heritage sites deemed "in danger". 

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has been trying to put the world’s largest coral reef system on the world heritage "in danger" list because of the threats posed by climate change. 

However, Scott Morrison’s administration has been lobbying to push back the key decision until at least 2023 and now has the support of the two oil-rich Middle East nations - both of whom are members of the World Heritage Committee. 

Australia is being forced "to find friends with other fossil fuel polluters," said an environmental campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, David Cazzulino, in a report by The Guardian. 

Richard Leck, head of oceans at WWF-Australia, said it was "concerning" that Australia had joined with fossil fuel dependent countries to "work together to push back action on climate change". 

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Diplomats from 16 countries and the EU will go on a snorkelling trip at the reef on Thursday ahead of a 15-day meeting to discuss the ecosystem's future status. Officials from Bahrain will be present according to The Guardian. 

The current deadline for a decision is July 23. 

The danger listing, which was first debated in 2017, is being championed by Unesco because of coral bleaching incidents in the reef as well as lack of progress in Australia on cutting down pollution from the land. 

The UN body says the "in danger" status is a chance to spotlight the vulnerability of the reef and encourage action to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. 

However, the Australian government's official reef ambassador, Warren Entsch, said he was worried the status would send negative signals to scientists and landholders who want to improve conditions on the reef. 

Saudi Arabia, like Australia, is home to extensive coral reefs. It is also regularly listed as one of the top three oil producers in the world. 

Bahrain, also a large oil producer, is acutely vulnerable to sea-level rise participated by climate change due to its low-lying geology and extensive amount of industrial and commercial activities along its coastlines.