Reef envoy takes global diplomats for dive

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Australia is taking a group of diplomats diving in an attempt to stop the Great Barrier Reef being listed as in danger.

While Environment Minister Sussan Ley lobbies World Heritage Committee members in Europe, her colleague Warren Entsch is focusing on Canberra-based ambassadors.

He is taking 15 ambassadors for a close look at the natural wonder, including representatives from nine countries with voting rights at an upcoming UNESCO meeting to determine the listing.

The diplomats are paying their own way.

The diving expedition follows a briefing from the chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

“We’ll take them out there to have a look for themselves,” Mr Entsch told ABC radio on Thursday.

“We always hear the negativity about what people assume is the problems, but nobody ever talks about the outstanding work being done by a whole cross-section of the community.”

Mr Entsch, the member for Leichhardt in far north Queensland, said the whole world needed to address warming waters caused by climate change, leading to coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef.

“It’s not just an Australian problem, it is a global problem.”

Mr Entsch is keen to talk up the reef conservation efforts of local farmers, graziers and tourism operators.

“It’s in their interest to maintain them in the best possible condition and they do,” he said.

The World Heritage Committee has made it clear Australia needs to match the rest of the world in committing to stronger climate change targets.

Mr Entsch agrees with calls for more climate action but says the UNESCO meeting is not the right forum.

“What they’ve got to look at is the management of this reef, understand this is not the only icon that is seriously at threat,” he said.

“There are literally hundreds where climate change has impacted … but the only three UNESCO has targeted this year are all in Australia.”

The Australian government has previously suggested China might be exerting its influence on UNESCO committees to engineer the outcome.

Mr Entsch has urged World Heritage Committee members to wait for an Australian Institute of Marine Science report on the Great Barrier Reef next month before making a decision.

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