In response to the 2015 and 2017 decisions of the World Heritage Committee, the Australian government submitted to the World Heritage Centre in December 2019 the State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage Area (WHA). The 2017 decision of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) focussed on two areas in particular, namely:
4. .... accelerate efforts to ensure meeting the intermediate and long-term targets of the [Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability] plan ... in particular regarding water quality;
6. .... demonstrating the effective and sustained protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and effective performance in meeting the targets established under the 2050 LTSP [Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan], linked to the findings of the 2014 and 2019 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Reports.
This review also focusses on these two areas, as well as the implications of Australia’s current climate change polices and the existing funding arrangements for management of the GBR.
Relative to previous GBR State Party Reports (2013, 2014, 2015) the 2019 Report provides more detail on funding arrangements and progress to achieving management targets. Overall, it is a more informative document. However, it still overstates the efficacy of existing management arrangements and understates the critical importance of effectively and immediately addressing the causes of climate change. We are concerned particularly by the present Australian government’s inadequate national climate change and energy policies and programs, and the implications these have for the future of the Great Barrier Reef.