Australia asks to be removed from UN climate report | News | DW | 27.05.2016
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Australia asks to be removed from UN climate report

Australia's Department of Environment has come under criticism for omitting the Great Barrier Reef from a UNESCO climate change report. Climate scientists say officials have censored details about environmental threats.

The UN report sought to examine the impact of climate change on world heritage sites including Australia's Great Barrier Reef, New York's Statue of Liberty, Venice and Britain's Stonehenge.

But Australian officials objected to negative references about its tourist spots and demanded they, and a whole chapter on the Reef, be removed from the document, which was released on Thursday.

Details about the Kakadu national park and the Tasmanian forests were also taken out.

"Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of World Heritage properties impacted on tourism," the department said in an email statement.

It added that it was concerned that the "framing" of the report could have created confusion between the issues of the status of world heritage sites, and the risks arising from climate change.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles)

The Reef is one of Australia's main tourist attractions, generating around $3.9 billion (3.5 billion euros) annually.

Last May, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee stopped short of placing the Reef on an "in danger" list, but raised concerns about its future.

Just last month, scientists said an aerial survey showed 93 percent of the reef is affected by coral bleaching due to acidification and rise in sea temperature caused by global warming. Environmentalists have warned large parts of it will be dead within 20 years if climate change isn't tackled.

Will Steffen, a climate scientist at the Australian National University who had been asked to contribute to the report, said he was stunned to discover that all references to Australian heritage sites were missing.

"The science is really well known, that's not a problem at all, so it's nothing new to the tourism industry. It's nothing new to the scientific community at all. So it's really hard to see what's so provocative in that report," Steffen told Reuters.

Greenpeace Australia called it "jaw-dropping news" and warned that the government could not hide the truth: "Our reef is suffering because of climate change," a statement said.

In December, the Australian government gave approval for a huge coal shipping terminal to be built close to the reef.

Watch video 12:14

Great Barrier Reef Threatened by Coal Mining

mm/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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