— Internet News

PM Scott Morrison hits out at ‘appalling’ UNESCO decision to downgrade Great Barrier Reef

Scott Morrison has lashed an ‘appalling’ decision to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef, as China dismisses claims it was behind the move as ‘smear and slander’.

The prime minister says that Australia is lobbying international allies to overturn an “appalling” decision to list the Great Barrier Reef as in danger, which the government believes was driven by China. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) criticized Australia’s slow progress on emissions reduction as it downgraded the health of the 2,300km reef, a decision the federal government claimed came as a shock. China chairs the 21-nation World Heritage Committee, and the government has implied “politics” were behind the move, claiming it was an abrupt reversal of previous assurances from UNESCO.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Australia had contacted the international community to have the recommendation overturned.

The UNESCO process has been appalling,” he told 2GB Radio on Thursday.

“We think that this process has been … quite different to when this issue was dealt with by UNESCO early on in our government.”

In its rationale for the decision, UNESCO said “insufficient progress” from Australia on emissions reduction and noted multiple mass bleaching events in the past decade.

The federal government has committed $3b towards its Reef 2050 Plan but has been isolated in the international community by its refusal to engage in a net-zero emissions target by 2050.

Despite the Coalition claiming the move had blindsided it, independent Zali Steggall said repeated warnings to Australia over climate inaction meant it should “not come as a surprise”.

Scott Morrison

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian flatly rejected suggestions Beijing had forced the move.

“Some people in Australia have been spreading China-related rumors and disinformation out of ideological bias,” he said Tuesday.

“In the same vein, you just mentioned groundless smear and slander.

Mr. Zhao also aimed at outgoing Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson, a former ambassador to China, who warned Beijing was motivated by a “volatile combination” of insecurity and power. “Few grasp that this great power is still dogged by insecurity as much as driven by ambition, that it has a deeply defensive mindset, perceiving external threats, even as it pushes its interests over those of others,” she said. “Insecurity and power can be volatile, more so if inadvertently mishandled.”

Mr. Zhao urged Australians to reject “smears” from the Australian government and claimed Ms. Adamson’s critique “couldn’t be further from the fact”.

“The Australian side bears full responsibility,” he said.

“The ball is in Australia’s court about improving bilateral relations. We hope the Australian government will adopt an objective, rational, and responsible attitude, think carefully about whether it sees China as a partner or threat, and do more in the interest of mutual trust and cooperation between the two sides.”

Secretary Adamson said a Lowy Institute poll revealing Australians’ trust in China had reached new lows and showed that Beijing’s attempts to influence the region had been counter-productive. Mr. Zhao confirmed Beijing had “noted” the poll but questioned its reliability, given it surveyed around 2,000 people.

“We hope the Australian people from all walks of life can be clear-eyed to tell right from wrong, view China and its development in an objective light, reject certain Australians’ smears against China, and show their understanding and support for China-Australia friendship and co-operation,” he said.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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