Snorkel Diplomacy is Australia’s New Tactic in Reef Climate Spat

Australia has a new plan to convince other nations that climate risks to the iconic Great Barrier Reef are overstated: it’s asking them to put on snorkeling masks and take a look.

Ambassadors from the European Union and more than a dozen nations, including Japan and Russia, have been invited to visit -- and swim at -- the World Heritage Site ahead of a United Nations vote that’ll consider plans to designate the reef as in danger and request Australia does more to bolster conservation.

Snorkel Diplomacy is Australia’s New Tactic in Reef Climate Spat

“People have done a lot to protect the reef and we need to show that their effort did not go to waste,” said lawmaker Warren Entsch, who will lead the visit with ambassadors and is the Australian government’s special envoy for the reef. “The last thing we need is people feeling discouraged.”

A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee session which begins Friday has been asked to endorse new action after issuing warnings for years over the deteriorating condition of the reef. The site has suffered significantly from mass coral bleaching caused by higher sea temperatures, according to a U.N. report published last month.

Australia’s pro-fossil fuels government has criticized demands for tougher action, pointing to plans to invest A$3 billion ($2.2 billion) on additional protections and previously challenged an effort in 2015 to designate the reef as endangered.

The reef, which stretches across an area about the size of Japan, is the Earth’s largest living structure and home to more than 600 types of corals and 1,600 species of fish.

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