In a new report, UNESCO called for greater protection of Australia's Great Barrier Reef on Monday. File Photo by Wagsy/Shutterstock
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Efforts to cut pollution damaging Australia's Great Barrier Reef are not enough and the system should be placed on a list of sites in danger, according to a United Nations mission report released on Monday.
UNESCO said in its report, released Monday, that climate change was creating a "serious challenge" to the reef system and pollution coming from farming and grazing continues to greatly impact the water quality surrounding the reefs.
The report said while "significant efforts" have been made to reduce nitrates and phosphates runoffs from farms and to implement land-based restoration to reduce sedimentation, those have not been enough to slow reef damage.
"There is a need to secure a greater reduction of these pollutants in the next three years than has been achieved since 2009 to achieve the [World Quality Improvement Program] targets," the executive summary of the UNESCO report said.
"The proposed development of the new large-scale hills Gate and Urannah dams in the region also threatens to counteract progress, both through their construction and the anticipated subsequent industrial and agricultural expansion plans."
International officials had lobbied the administration of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help place additional protections around the reef, including putting it on the "in danger" list.
The World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday urged the governments of Australia and Queensland to accept the recommendations by UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature
"The Great Barrier Reef has been at the frontline of climate change damage," WWF-Australia's Head of Oceans Richard Leck said in a statement. "These UNESCO recommendations are a reminder it is our choice to give the world's most iconic coral reef the best chance of survival."
Australia's Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, however, pushed back against the UNESCO report, saying the government is already taking action needed.
"There is no need to single out the Great Barrier Reef in Australia because there is no government taking the risks to coral reefs more seriously than the Australian Government," Plibersek said. "We're working hand in hand with the Queensland Government to protect, restore and manage the Great Barrier Reef. If the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, then every coral reef in the world is in danger."
UNESCO nearly placed the Great Barrier Reef on its "endangered" UNESCO World Heritage list last year because of environmental challenges.