Media Release Climate Change

Morrison government attempting to water down World Heritage climate policy with revisions

November 11, 2021

The Morrison government’s proposed changes to World Heritage climate action policy are shocking and fail our Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

UNESCO, the World Heritage advisory body, has produced a climate action policy designed to protect World Heritage sites. As reported in the Guardian Australia, the Morrison government’s proposed amendments include wanting to delete a pivotal reference to a 1.5C global warming commitment and to halt any inscriptions on the World Heritage In Danger list due to climate change.

If the Morrison government’s amendments are accepted, World Heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef, which are highly vulnerable to climate change, will be further endangered.

“It is appalling that the Morrison government is not only acting as a handbrake on global climate action but also running interference on international climate policies that aim to protect World Heritage icons like our Great Barrier Reef,” said AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign manager Dr Lissa Schindler.

“We know that 1.5 degrees of warming is the threshold for coral reefs around the world. For Australia to want to delete a key reference to this is astounding.

“The deletion is contrary to calls from Federal agency the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which in 2019 said it was critical global temperature rises remained within 1.5C.

“The World Heritage Committee has outlined the action that needs to be taken to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the World Heritage in danger list. Strong action on climate change, water pollution and sustainable fisheries is what the Reef needs.

“The Morrison government needs to stop trying to wriggle out of their World Heritage commitments and get on with the job of protecting the Great Barrier Reef and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on it.”


UNESCO has recommended that the UN General Assembly reject these and other amendments put forward by Australia and ratify the new policy when it meets later this month.

The revelations come just days after Australia was ranked last out of 60 countries for policies in response to the climate crisis. At the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, so far Australia has refused to sign on to a pledge to cut methane emissions, continued to back coal as other countries have committed to phasing it out and stubbornly refused to improve its weak 2030 emissions targets.

Earlier this year, UNESCO used the government’s own scientific reports to recommend adding the Reef to the list of World Heritage in Danger sites because of the impacts of the climate crisis and water pollution.

Following intensive lobbying from the Morrison government, the World Heritage Committee decided to delay its decision to place the Reef on the ‘in Danger’ list until July 2022.