Threat of 'in-danger' reef listing should stay

THE threat of an "in-danger" listing of the Great Barrier Reef should stay for at least another year, and it should not be listed yet, a prominent climate change scientist has argued.

The University of Queensland's Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and law lecturer Justine Bell wrote on The Conversation website the World Heritage Committee should not list the reef as "in danger" next year.

The UNESCO committee is expected to make a decision on the listing in June, after the Abbott government files its progress report in February.

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said there was "no question that the state and federal government had to do much more to help save the Great Barrier Reef".

"The point of view we take is that we have seen significant progress in terms of meeting UNESCO's recommendations," he said.

"But on face value, while there has been progress, by actually listing the reef as a World Heritage site 'in danger', we run the risk that this would de-motivate both governments' (intention) to really act."

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said while some groups believed the listing would "spur governments to act", he feared that "in the current climate" a listing would actually "remove the only lever the international community has to make sure action is taken".

"This is about recognising progress, but maintaining that lever - the very fact this has been hanging over their head means it has forced them to act," Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said.

But, he said, as a member of the Academy of Science, which has argued current plans are not enough to reverse the reef's decline, there were still "plenty of things to be done".

"I've been critical of the long-term sustainability plan and its lack of consideration of climate change and a host of issues," he said.

"I'm no apologist for the government, but we need to be careful of what we are expecting, and there is a real risk that by listing the reef as a site in danger, it would then demote the political momentum to actually address the issues and protect the reef."

Local Partners