Greenpeace paints a picture for UNESCO

Press release - 7 March, 2012
Gladstone, 7th March 2012: Greenpeace activists have painted the message “Reef in Danger” on the side of a coal ship - the Panamanian-flagged Chou Shan- berthed at Gladstone RG Tanna Coal Terminal, as a United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) team arrive to inspect the harbour.

The UNESCO mission is in Australia due to concerns about the impacts of the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) industry’s expansion in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site. Last week Greenpeace released a report showing that massive coal mining expansion planned in Central Queensland’s Galilee Basin would result in six times more coal ships moving through the Great Barrier Reef and enough material being dredged to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) 67 times.

UNESCO is in Gladstone today to investigate the impact the LNG gas hub and dredging are having on the health of the region, they will also be considering the enormous threat posed by proposed coal port developments like Abbot Point.

“Minister Burke is just three weeks away from giving approval for an expansion that will see Abbot Point become the biggest coal port in the world by 2020 and this in a World Heritage Site,” said Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Julien Vincent.

“Under pressure from UNESCO, the Government has announced a strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef,” said Vincent. “If Minister Burke had a shred of regard for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area he would put a halt to all major industrial approvals while this assessment is underway.”

North Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator Wendy Tubman said: “The Australian Government has acknowledged that the greatest threat to our iconic Great Barrier Reef is climate change, and that reducing the impact of non-climate pressures may be the only feasible option to increase the resilience of the reef. They cannot then allow this massive increase in non-climate-related pressures - not if they are serious about their obligations to protect this magnificent World Heritage Area that adds so much to Australia.”

Mrs. Patricia Julien, Coordinator for Mackay Conservation Group in northern Central Queensland said, "Coal mines in the Galilee Basin will be the biggest in the world, producing between 20 to more than 60 million tonnes a year of coal exports, compared to most mines in the Bowen Coal Basin which range from 3 to 10 million tonnes a year of coal exports. It means more dredging, pollution and shipping impacts on the reef from huge new coal ports at Abbot and Dudgeon Points.”

“The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is unlikely to be unaffected by this increase in scale,” continued Mrs Julien, “The significant increase in world carbon emissions from the burning of Galilee Basin coal exports will contribute to increased ocean acidity and ocean temperatures in the reef. There is no cap on more Queensland coal mines or reef ports so the situation is likely to get worse."

UNESCO is rightly concerned about the environmental impacts of LNG dredging in Gladstone. And they need to know that if the coal export boom goes ahead, it means repeating this heart-breaking scenario right up the Great Barrier Reef coast, placing the World Heritage Site in serious danger.

“Greenpeace is proud to be working alongside local communities, farmers and grassroots environmental groups up and down the Queensland coast,” concluded Julien Vincent from Greenpeace. “We think the 60,000 jobs supported by a healthy reef are important, as is the ongoing health of the environment and future for our children.”

Go here to view the report ‘Boom Goes the Reef’:

For further comment contact:

Julie Macken, Media Officer 0400 925 217
Julien Vincent, Greenpeace Campaigner 0419 179 529
Wendy Tubman NQCC Coordinator 0415 176761
Patricia Julien, Coordinator, Mackay Conservation Group  (07) 4966 8025     

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