Despite concerns about climate change-fuelled damage to the ecosystem's corals, Australia's Great Barrier Reef on Friday evaded the list of endangered world heritage site by UNESCO, reports AFP. The World Heritage Committee meeting, chaired by China, voted not to downgrade the reef to "in danger", after a concerted lobbying effort by Canberra.
Releasing a statement, Australia's Environment Minister Sussan Ley thanked the delegates for recognising Australia's commitment to protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
In June, the United Nations' cultural agency recommended to downgrade World Heritage status of the Reef due to its dramatic coral decline, largely due to the impacts of climate change and poor water quality.
Tim Badman, director of the agency's World Heritage Programme, said the reef "unambiguously" met the criteria for an endangered listing, adding the current status of the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef and the prospects for future recovery have significantly deteriorated.
The Australian Minister flew to Paris earlier this month to personally lobby member states on the committee and Australia also took key ambassadors on a reef snorkelling trip.
The Great Barrier Reef were suppose to be in the endangered list in 2015 but Australia successfully waged a similar diplomatic campaign and committed billions of dollars to reef protection.
The 2,300-kilometre-long (1,400-mile-long) ecosystem has suffered three mass coral bleaching events due to rising ocean temperatures and global warming.
Though government scientists say corals have shown signs of recovery in the past 12 months, they admit the reef's long-term outlook remains "very poor".
Two thirds of the reef is believed to have been damaged in some way.
As well as coral bleaching, the reef is also susceptible to damage from cyclones and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, which eat the coral.
UNESCO had accused Australia of failing to meet key water quality and land management targets, while also taking aim at the country for its lacklustre climate efforts.
Canberra is facing growing international criticism for refusing to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
The conservative government has said it hopes to meet the target "as soon as possible" without harming the country's fossil fuel-reliant economy.
But World Heritage Committee members -- including China, Russia and Saudi Arabia -- agreed Australia should have more time to report on its reef conservation efforts.
The delegates also asked UNESCO to send a monitoring mission to inspect the reef, after Canberra criticised the agency for relying on existing reports to make its recommendation.