Webinar: Extractives and World Heritage sites: Understanding the Great Barrier Reef extractives controversy in Australia

10 April, 2016  |  Events - Past   

Environmental Conflicts are a major concern around extractive industry projects worldwide. The challenge in meeting many of the SDG goals and targets is to find a way by which ecological conservation goals can be reconciled with key infrastructure and development goals effectively. The threat by UNESCO to classify the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger” in the World Heritage listing is a case of how such a conflict was reconciled between environmentalists, the government of Australia and a multilateral body.

SDSN Australia/Pacific and the University of Queensland cordially invite you to join us from around the world to hear one of the world’s leading experts on the Great Barrier Reef discuss this case and how insights can be gleaned for other environmental conflicts worldwide. The webinar was recorded on 8 April 2016, 10:00-11:30 am AEST.

  • Convenor and moderator: Professor Saleem H. Ali, Chair in Sustainable Resource Development and Progamme Leader in Development and Governance at the Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland
  • Keynote speaker: Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Institute at the University of Queensland, Australian Laureate Fellow

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest structure by volume built by living organisms on the planet. Bordering the coast of Queensland, Australia, it is a remarkable ecosystem with immense ecological and economic value.

In 1981, the reef was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site after considerable controversy in Australia because there was a concern that this may limit extractive industries development along the coast. During the past two decades, Queensland has developed enormous extractive resources including a major coal-seam gas infrastructure project near the town of Gladstone and plans to also develop one of the world’s largest coal mines led by Indian corporation Adani. Concerns about the impact the extractives sector would have on the reef in terms of pollution and increased traffic volume of cargo ships led to UNESCO deliberating an “in-danger” listing for the reef as a World Heritage site in 2012. There were a series of scientific studies which were presented to support and erode this proposition. Ultimately, in 2015, the reef was granted a reprieve from UNESCO from the delisting threat – at least for now.

This case presents an important and instructive example of how extractive industries development, even in an advanced industrialized country with strict regulations, can create an environmental conflict. The webinar will have presentations by experts on the ecology and economics of extractive industries development versus alternative livelihoods such as tourism and fishing.

We will also consider the role of international organizations and “soft law” in fostering constructive change to ensure extractive industries development can occur with minimal negative impacts and more efficiently meeting the targets of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.