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A green sea turtle swimming among the corals at Lady Elliot island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Great Barrier Reef should be included in a list of World Heritage Sites that are "in danger" from climate change, a United Nations committee said in a report Tuesday.

Yes, but: Australia's government said it will "strongly oppose" the recommendation by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

Why it matters: If the the world's largest coral reef ecosystem is placed on the "in danger" list, it would mark the first time a natural World Heritage-listed site has been included mainly due to the climate crisis, per the Guardian.

  • Researchers discovered last year that the reef, off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, had lost over half of its coral populations in the past three decades because of ocean warming.
  • The UN report recommends that "accelerated action to mitigate climate change and improve water quality was essential to turn this outlook around," saying that Australia should "urgently" take action.

The reaction: Australia's Environment Minister Sussan Ley said Tuesday that Australian officials were "stunned" by the report's recommendation and implied to Aussie news outlets that China's government may have influenced the report's recommendations as the current UNESCO chair.

Context: Relations between the governments of Australia and China have deteriorated in recent years, with Australian officials accusing the Chinese Communist Party of interfering in domestic politics and Beijing saying Canberra has a "Cold War mentality."

What they're saying: "The Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef in the world and this draft recommendation has been made without examining the Reef first hand, and without the latest information," Ley said in a statement.

  • "In a call to the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, with Foreign Minister Marise Payne overnight, I expressed Australia’s dissatisfaction with the process that is being followed.
"I made it clear that we will contest this flawed approach, one that has been taken without adequate consultation."

Of note: Environmental groups rejected any suggestion by Australia's conservative government of political interference in the UN report's findings.

  • "The recommendation from UNESCO is clear and unequivocal that the Australian government is not doing enough to protect our greatest natural asset, especially on climate change," said WWF-Australia's Richard Leck in a statement.

What's next: There will be a vote at the committee's meeting in China next month to determine whether the reef should be included in the list.

Go deeper: Bleaching threat to Great Barrier Reef spawning

Go deeper

Biden to stress U.S. does not seek new Cold War in UN speech

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden will use his first address before the UN General Assembly to lay out his vision for an era of "intensive diplomacy" with allies and "vigorous competition" with great powers — without a Cold War with China.

Why it matters: Biden will take the podium in New York on Tuesday with his own international credibility in question after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. His administration also is struggling to build international momentum to fight climate change, the pandemic and rising global authoritarianism.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."