The Great Barrier Reef should be added to a list of "in danger" World Heritage Sites a UN committee recommended on Tuesday, prompting an angry response from Australia which said it had been blindsided by the move and blamed political interference.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee, which sits under UNESCO, said the world's biggest coral reef system should be added to the list due to the impact of climate change.
Australia has for years been battling to keep the Great Barrier Reef, a major tourist attraction that supports thousands of jobs, off the "in danger" list. In 2015, UNESCO noted the outlook for the reef was poor but kept the site's status unchanged. Since then, scientists say it has suffered three major coral bleaching events due to severe marine heatwaves.
Australia's Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said Canberra had been assured there would be no recommendation on the reef by the UN before July.
Ley said she and Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne spoke overnight with the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay.
"This decision was flawed. Clearly there were politics behind it," she said.