Australia’s Great Barrier Reef may be listed as endangered heritage, could China be behind it?

The possible listing of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in Danger by the United Nations has caused a new row between Australia and China.

Last month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization downgraded the Great Barrier Reef’s health rating to “endangered” based on relevant indicators and presented a draft proposal to list the Great Barrier Reef as a natural heritage site in danger. Next Friday, the UNESCO World Heritage Conference will meet in Fuzhou, China. At the meeting, member states will discuss the draft and decide whether to list the island as an endangered heritage.

Some experts say that once the Great Barrier Reef is listed as an endangered heritage by the United Nations, Australia may be removed from UNESCO’s list, and Australia’s tourism industry will suffer a considerable loss as a result.

Australian radio quoted Susan Leigh, the country’s environment minister, as saying that UN officials had assured Australia that the Great Barrier Reef would not be recommended for the list before the July meeting. Susan Leigh bluntly exclaimed, “We have been undercut by this late and sudden decision.”

By “backstabbing” Susan Leigh means that China has used its presidency of the General Assembly to bring in the majority of members to embarrass Australia over the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian broadcaster reported that 14 of the 21 members of the World Heritage Assembly have signed a Belt and Road trade agreement with China.

The Great Barrier Reef is located in the southern hemisphere of the Earth, on the east coast of Australia, in the state of Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest and longest coral reef complex, with a length of 2011 kilometers and a width of 161 kilometers, with 2,900 islands of coral reefs, large and small, and a very unique natural landscape.

Over the past year and a half, relations between Australia and China have been strained. China has launched a major trade sanction against Australia in retaliation for Australia’s proposal for an independent international investigation into the traceability of the virus. The relationship has been further exacerbated by the issue of free navigation in the South China Sea, human rights in Xinjiang and national security laws in Hong Kong.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday refuted claims by some Australian sources that there were political motives behind the decision. Wang said the decision was made after a long-term assessment of the state of the Great Barrier Reef. He asked Canberra to “take concrete measures to reduce carbon emissions” and improve the Great Barrier Reef’s ecological environment.