Reef removal begs questions
All references to Australia have been removed from a UN report on climate change, due to fears for the Great Barrier Reef’s reputation.
The Environment Department was concerned that references to the destruction of the Reef could be confusing, and negatively affect tourism.
The report from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), the Union of Concerned Scientists and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), originally included an entire chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as sections on Kakadu and Tasmanian forests.
The Environment Department has issued a statement saying it “did not support any of Australia's world heritage properties being included” in the report.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt was not told about the department’s issues.
The Great Barrier Reef was one of the major case studies in the report, as it is a site where climate change is a particularly prominent threat.
Climate scientists who saw the original text say it was not an ideological document, or an attack on the handling of the Reef, but was little more than a routine update on the risks and progress of climate change.
But the Australian Department of Environment had several concerns, not least of which was the title; ‘Destinations at Risk’.
The department said the title would cause confusion, due to the fact that the World Heritage Committee removed the Great Barrier Reef from the endangered list just six months ago.
Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University and head of the Climate Council, Will Steffen, has told reporters that he was “very surprised” when he saw no references to Australia.
He added that the specific classification of the Reef was not the point.
“There's a technical thing about the World Heritage endangered list, but whether it is or it isn't, there is absolutely no doubt that the Great Barrier Reef is at risk of increasing temperature rise, of coral bleaching, of ocean acidification,” Dr Steffen said.
“That is extremely well documented. We've just seen over the past month exactly what that's all about.”