Joint media release: UN recognises Australian Government action to protect the Great Barrier Reef

01 August 2023

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
Senator Nita Green, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Senator for Queensland
The Hon Leanne Linard, Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef

The Australian and Queensland Governments welcome the draft decision from the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) not to list the Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’.

This confirms the Albanese and Palaszczuk Labor Governments are acting on climate change, working hard to protect the Reef, and that the rest of the world has taken notice.

As the draft decision makes clear, Australia’s environmental policies have fundamentally changed under Labor, for the better. 

The draft decision cites “significant progress” being made on climate change, water quality, and sustainable fishing – all putting the Reef on a stronger and more sustainable path.

As sources close to UNESCO recently told the French newspaper Le Monde, on climate change and the environment “…the approach [from the Australian government] has changed completely. Between the new government and the old one, it’s a bit like night and day”.

The Australian Government has:

  • Invested a record $1.2 billion in the Reef.
  • Legislated to reach net zero, with a 43 per cent emissions reduction target in 2035 and committed to reaching 82 per cent renewable energy supply by 2030.
  • Invested $150 million to improve water quality through projects such as revegetation, grazing management and engineering work like gully stabilisation.
  • With the Queensland Government, announced the phase-out of gillnets in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park with a $160 million package.
  • Rejected a coal mine that could have direct impacts on the Reef.
  • Withdrawn federal funding for dams that would have had a detrimental impact on Reef water quality.
  • Invested an extra $163.4 million in the May budget to guarantee the future of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, doubling funding for Reef science.
  • Committed to rewriting Australia’s broken environmental laws.
  • Engaged more Indigenous Rangers to manage sea country, including combatting crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, marine plastics and ghost nets.

Of course, this decision doesn’t mean the Reef is in the clear. If we don't deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement, every coral reef in the world is vulnerable. 

But this draft decision confirms Labor’s policies are making a difference.

We need to act on climate change. We need to protect our special places and the plants and animals that call them home. And that is precisely what we are doing.

We will continue to work with UNESCO and International Union for Conservation of Nature to ensure the protection of the Reef and all World Heritage properties impacted by climate change, right around the globe. 

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP:

“We’re committed to better protecting our precious Great Barrier Reef – and this decision is evidence of that. 

“Scott Morrison’s bad policies on climate change and the environment showed the Liberals and Nationals didn’t care about the reef.

“UNESCO’s draft decision acknowledges that, under Labor, Australia is once again serious about protecting the Reef and acting on climate change. 

“Our government will always support Australia’s precious places, and the plants and animals that call them home. And we will always support the Australians who rely on a healthy environment for their jobs. That’s why I have raised this issue every time I have met with UNESCO and my counterparts on the World Heritage Committee.

“Our Great Barrier Reef is one of the planet’s most outstanding natural wonders. I encourage people from around the world to come and see our beautiful Reef for themselves – you’re very welcome.”

Quotes attributable to Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Senator Nita Green:

“I am pleased by UNESCO’s decision today, but I know there is still work to do. This is particularly welcome news for regional communities in Queensland where the Reef supports local jobs and local economies.

“Although this is a draft decision, it recognises the work of our partners, agencies and stakeholders who have worked together over the past twelve months supported by a Government committed to protecting the Reef. 

“The Liberal Nationals put the Reef a risk for a decade and continue to demonstrate disregard for future of the Reef. I will continue to work alongside organisations, Traditional Owners and the broader community to keep our Reef beautiful and vibrant for generations to come.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leanne Linard:

“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s truly special places. It is one of the wonders of the natural world and home to a vast array of marine life including fish, coral, marine mammals, sharks and sting rays, just to name a few.

“It injects billions of dollars into state and regional economies every year through the tourism sector. It is estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs, most of which are in regional towns the length of Queensland’s east coast, in cafes, restaurants, hotels and of course on a flotilla of reef boats.

“Because of its environmental, cultural and economic importance the Palaszczuk Government, in consultation with science, industry, conservation and other experts, has taken strong action to protect the Reef.

“We have welcomed the opportunity to work with the Albanese Government since its election. Like our government, they believe in the science and are committed to working to protect the reef.

“The draft recommendation to not list the reef as being “in danger” is an acknowledgement of the work we have been doing. 

“However, this is an area where we cannot afford to rest. We will continue to work with the Albanese Government, the science community, industry, conservationists and the community to protect this natural wonder so it can be enjoyed by future generations.”


The UNESCO draft decision can be found here: