Leading Australians urge World Heritage Committee to put science before politics for good of Great Barrier Reef

Over fifty leading Australian voices from the world of politics, science, business, sport and the arts are standing together for the future of Australia’s much loved icon, the Great Barrier Reef.

They have endorsed a public statement calling on the World Heritage Committee to ensure the Australian government takes the actions required to protect our global icon.

The names include Hollywood actor Simon Baker, high profile businessman and environmentalist Geoff Cousins, Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes, singer songwriter Montaigne, former politician and musician Peter Garrett and AMCS patron, the author Tim Winton.

In the statement, the endorsees criticise the Australian government for its lack of leadership on climate change – the biggest threat to our global natural icon. They urge the Committee to call on Australia to put in place ‘corrective measures’ addressing climate change and local threats. A national plan compatible with 1.5°C of warming is a critical threshold for the Great Barrier Reef.

The statement says: “We urge the Committee to put science before politics; conservation and protection before national interest; and to uphold the spirit and letter of the Convention. We look to the World Heritage Committee to endorse UNESCO’s draft decision.”

Mr Cousins, former CEO of Optus and Howard Government advisor, said: “The Reef is inextricably tied with Australian identity. We would be losing a part of ourselves if this Australian government doesn’t step up on climate urgently and take responsibility as custodians of this global icon to ensure its future.”

Adjunct Professor Peter Valentine of James Cook University, said: “There are thousands in the community in Queensland who rely on a healthy Reef for their livelihoods. They want this government to take urgent action on reducing emissions and improving Reef water quality because it makes economic and environmental sense. What doesn’t make any sense is spending time, public funds and effort lobbying diplomats all over the world because they don’t like UNESCO’s draft decision. The draft decision is a call to arms to take action urgently and that’s what Australia should support.”

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) helped to organise the statement.

AMCS CEO Darren Kindleysides thanked the leading names who agreed to endorsement at short notice.

“The influential individuals who have signed up to this statement are as diverse as Australia itself, from community leaders, traditional owners, musicians and comedians, to big names in business, climate science and Reef management. It shows that Australians’ love and passion for the Reef runs deep and there is widespread recognition for the action required to ensure its future.”

It is the latest high profile call on the World Heritage Committee to follow the UNESCO recommendations following public letters from five world renowned scientists and Australia’s leading environmental non-government organisations.

The 21-member World Heritage Committee will meet next week to decide whether to ratify UNESCO’s science-based recommendation to add the Reef to the ‘in danger’ list, due to three severe coral bleaching events in the last five years and slow progress towards achieving water quality targets.

The public statement can be read here.

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