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Climate change: State of the Environment report highlights threat of coal mining, urban growth

ABC News logo ABC News 7/03/2017

Steam and exhaust rise from the steel power station HKM Huettenwerke Krupp Mannesmann GmbH on a cold winter day © Getty Images Steam and exhaust rise from the steel power station HKM Huettenwerke Krupp Mannesmann GmbH on a cold winter day Climate change: State of the Environment report highlights threat of coal mining, urban growth

The Government has no comprehensive national plan to protect Australia's landscape to the year 2050, according to a report, which also warns of the potentially irreversible impact of climate change and the threats of coal mining, invasive species, rubbish, urban growth and habitat destruction.

The State of the Environment report — commissioned by the Federal Government and written by independent experts — found while the main environmental challenges remained climate change and land use, Australia had made good progress in managing marine environments.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the report also showed improvements in the ozone layer above the Antarctic, although further improvements were necessary.

"We're seeing more Indigenous areas subject to protection and more places listed on the National Heritage list and our World Heritage List," he said.

"Climate change continues to be a major challenge and we've seen a major change in the Great Barrier Reef and climate change and the El Nino effect causes for that. "We've seen a bleaching event last year in the Barrier Reef and we're concerned about further bleaching events.

"We're also seeing some real challenges with invasive species and particularly feral cats that prey on marsupials and birds and reptiles, many of which are on the endangered list."

What else did the report say?

Invasive species were listed as one of "the most potent, persistent and widespread threats" to the Australian environment.

"Invasive species have a major impact on Australia's environment, threatening biodiversity by, for example, reducing overall species abundance and diversity," the report said. The report said climate change was a pervasive pressure on all aspects of Australian environment as was altering the structure and function of the natural ecosystem.

"Evidence shows that the impacts of climate change are increasing, and some of these impacts may be irreversible," the report said. The report found urban growth in coastal areas was leading to more rubbish in coastal and marine ecosystems, with plastic accounting for three-quarters of debris on Australian beaches.

"Although mining developments have slowed in recent years, the ongoing environmental impact of former mining sites and the expansion of unconventional gas extraction are emerging concerns, particularly because of concerns for safety and competition with other land uses," the report said. Record high water temperatures caused widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality during the five-year period.

The report found the Antarctic environment was "generally in good condition".

"There is increasing evidence that the ozone layer is starting to recover as a consequence of international controls on the use of human made ozone depleting substances," the report said. "The Antarctic environment is showing clear signs of impact from climate change."

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