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Australian references removed from UN climate change report over ‘tourism concerns’
All references to Australia have been removed from a United Nations report on climate change after the Federal Department of Environment expressed concerns it could cause confusion and negatively affect tourism.
The report, World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate, jointly published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), the Union of Concerned Scientists and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), initially contained a chapter on the Great Barrier Reef and sections on Kakadu and Tasmanian forests.
However, as reported by the Guardian Australia, when the Federal Environment Department saw a draft of the report, it objected, and every mention of Australia was removed.
A statement from the Environment Department said that it had "indicated it did not support any of Australia's world heritage properties being included" in the report.
It also said Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt was not involved or briefed on the issue.
No sections about any other country were removed from the report. The removals left Australia as the only inhabited continent on the planet with no mentions.
Explaining the decision to object to the report, a spokesperson for the Environment Department told Guardian Australia “recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism.”
As a result of climate change combined with weather phenomena, the Great Barrier Reef is in the midst of the worst crisis in recorded history. Unusually warm water has caused 93% of the reefs along the 2,300 kilometre site to experience bleaching. In the northern most pristine part, scientists think half the coral might have died.
Will Steffen, one of the scientific reviewers of the removed Australian section, said the Australia Government’s move was “frankly astounding” and reminiscent of “the old Soviet Union”.
Steffen, an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University and head of Australia’s Climate Council, was previously Executive Director of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme, where he worked with 50 countries on global change science.
He said he was "very surprised" when he saw that Australia was not included, because it was one of the major case studies in the report.
Steffen explained "it's obviously not only one of the most iconic world heritage sites in Australia, it's a globally iconic site and it's one of the sites where climate change is probably one of the most prominent threats.”
Steffen said that his understanding of how the report would be used was just "a normal UNESCO report where they're putting information out on global scale issues."
The Australian Department of Environment said one of the concerns it had was the title, 'Destinations at Risk'.
The Department said the title had potential to cause considerable confusion because only six months earlier the World Heritage Committee had decided not to include the Great Barrier Reef on the endangered list.
Click here to access the World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate report.
Images: Coral bleaching on the the Great Barrier Reef (top) and divers on the reef (below).
30th May 2015 - GREAT BARRIER REEF TO BE SPARED UNESCO ‘IN DANGER’ LISTING
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