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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

11 mins ago - Sports

NFL to fine unvaccinated players $14K for violating COVID-19 protocols

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs wears a facemask while preparing for the start of Super Bowl LV. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NFL will fine unvaccinated players $14,650 if they violate COVID-19 protocols this season, ESPN reports.

The big picture: The rule change comes two days after the NFL announced that postponed games due to coronavirus outbreaks among unvaccinated players or staffers will not be rescheduled and teams responsible for delays will automatically forfeit.

2 hours ago - Sports

The new faces of NBC's Olympics coverage

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Cy Cyr/PGA Tour via Getty Images

A new(ish) face will be leading NBCUniversal's prime-time coverage of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games: veteran sportscaster Mike Tirico.

Why it matters: It's Tirico's first run as prime-time host for the Summer Olympics. Legendary broadcaster Bob Costas hosted 12 Olympic Games between 1988 and 2016 for NBC before handing over the prime-time spot to Tirico in 2018.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Sports

Behind the scenes at the COVID Olympics

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios, Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

TOKYO — The COVID rule-breaking was obvious at Friday's opening ceremony, when athletes were clearly visible on TV with masks below their noses, but an athlete tells Axios that the rule-breaking has been going on well before that.

  • It's been happening at least since athletes arrived in the Olympic Village, where masks were dropped below noses and different teams were forced to share buses.