Australia urged to avoid Great Barrier Reef’s possible ‘in danger’ status
Robie de Guzman • November 29, 2019 • 627
Sydney, Australia – Environmental organizations on Friday urged the Australian government to prevent the United Nations cultural agency from including the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, on the World Heritage endangered list.
“Australia has a unique opportunity to show global leadership on reef protection,” Richard Lecks, World Wildlife Fund-Australia’s head of Oceans and Sustainable Development, said in a statement.
The appeal came two days before the deadline for the Australian government to submit a progress report of the plan it created in 2015 to protect the reef after United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) considered listing the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger.”
Next year, UNESCO’s world heritage committee will review the Great Barrier Reef, which has undergone two mass bleaching episodes of its corals in 2016 and 2017 due to warmer water temperatures, among other factors.
In August, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority downgraded its outlook for the corals’ health from “poor” to “very poor” and said the target set by the government’s Reef 2050 plan to improve water quality had not been achieved.
“The Australian government’s own experts have identified climate change as the leading threat to the Reef,” said Imogen Zethoven, the director of strategy of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
The activists urged the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is an advocate for the coal industry, one of the main drivers of the country’s economy, to adopt several measures, including reducing emissions and pursuing a transition to renewable energy.
The 2,300-kilometer-long (1,430 miles) Great Barrier Reef, home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of mollusks, began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of water warming and increased acidity caused by more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. EFE-EPA
The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close from Tuesday (July 7) for an indefinite period, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday (July 6), following an outbreak of the coronavirus in his state.
The decision marks the first time the border with neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) has been shut in 100 years – officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.
The state reported 127 new COVID-19 infections overnight, its biggest one-day spike since the pandemic began. 53 of those were detected from the public housing towers. It also reported one death, the first nationally in more than two weeks, taking the country’s total tally to 105.
Andrews said the decision to close the border, effective from 11.59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was made jointly with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.
Australia has fared better than many countries in the coronavirus pandemic, with just short of 8,500 cases so far, but the Melbourne outbreak has raised alarm bells. The country has reported an average of 109 cases daily over the past week, compared with an average of just 9 cases daily over the first week of June. (Reuters)
Australia is considering safe haven proposals for Hong Kong residents, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday (July 2), after China imposed a new national security law on the financial hub.
The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison in Hong Kong, which was guaranteed freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland under a “one country, two systems” formula at its 1997 handover.
China says the law is necessary to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces following anti-government protests that escalated in June last year and plunged the city into its biggest crisis in decades.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the law will not affect Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
The passage of the law has drawn international condemnation and more than 300 people on Wednesday (July 1) were arrested as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation. (Reuters)
A year-long parliamentary inquiry announced on Tuesday (June 30) that koalas will become extinct in Australia’s most populous state by 2050 without significant intervention.
The report found that koala populations in New South Wales were on track to become extinct by 2050, prior to the 2019-2020 bushfire season, due to drought and habitat destruction.
However the recent bushfire season, which was one of the worst in Australian history, was particularly lethal to the state’s koala population and had only increased the rate of their extinction, according to the inquiry.
Whilst the committee was unable to determine the exact impact of the fires upon the koala population, it concluded that koala habitats in some parts of the state suffered a loss of up to 81%.
The report outlined 42 recommendations to the state government that could be taken to help revitalize the population. (Reuters)
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