Climate warn­ing for UN her­itage sites

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD -

BONN, Germany — Climate change im­per­ils one in four United Na­tions-listed nat­u­ral her­itage sites, in­clud­ing co­ral reefs, glaciers and wet­lands — nearly dou­ble the num­ber from just three years ago, a re­port said on Mon­day.

The num­ber of UNESCO sites at risk has grown to 62 from 35 in 2014, when one in seven were listed, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture, which re­leased the re­port at UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

The re­port found that 29 per­cent of UNESCO nat­u­ral sites faced “sig­nif­i­cant” threats, and 7 per­cent — in­clud­ing the Ever­glades Na­tional Park in the United States and Lake Turkana in Kenya — had a “crit­i­cal” out­look.

Among the most threat­ened ecosys­tems by global warm­ing are co­ral reefs which bleach as oceans heat up, and glaciers which melt.

Three World Her­itage-listed co­ral reefs — the Aldabra Atoll in the In­dian Ocean, the Belize Bar­rier Reef in the At­lantic and Aus­tralia’s Great Bar­rier Reef — have been af­fected by “dev­as­tat­ing” bleach­ing over the last three years, said the re­port.

“Re­treat­ing glaciers, also re­sult­ing from ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, threaten sites such as Kil­i­man­jaro Na­tional Park, which boasts Africa’s high­est peak, and the Swiss Alps JungfrauAletsch, home to the largest Alpine glacier,” said the union.

Wet­lands, low-ly­ing deltas, per­mafrost and fire-sen­si­tive ecosys­tems are also af­fected by changes to Earth’s climate, it added.

“The in­crease and the speed in which we are see­ing this trend shift over just three years has been shock­ing to us, and the re­port warns that this num­ber is likely to grow,” said Inger An­der­sen, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of the union.

“The scale and pace at which it (climate change) is dam­ag­ing our nat­u­ral her­itage un­der­line the need for ur­gent and am­bi­tious na­tional com­mit­ments and ac­tions to im­ple­ment the Paris Agree­ment,” said An­der­sen.

In­suf­fi­cient fund­ing

Harm to nat­u­ral sites en­dan­gers lo­cal economies and liveli­hoods, the IUCN said.

“In Peru’s Huas­caran Na­tional Park, for ex­am­ple, melt­ing glaciers af­fect wa­ter sup­plies and con­tam­i­nate wa­ter and soil due to the re­lease of heavy me­tals pre­vi­ously trapped un­der ice.”

Only in­va­sive plant and an­i­mal species sur­passed climate change as a risk to nat­u­ral her­itage sites, said the union. And climate change boosts their spread.

Sites on the World Her­itage list are ear­marked for pro­tec­tion for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Coun­tries as­sume re­spon­si­bil­ity un­der the World Her­itage Con­ven­tion to pro­tect listed sites within their borders.

The re­port said the man­age­ment of her­itage sites has de­clined since 2014, “no­tably due to in­suf­fi­cient fund­ing.”

The Bonn meet­ing was the first of UN climate en­voys since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he would pull the US out of the Paris Agree­ment, a move many fear will make the 2 C goal that much harder to reach.

WANG YING / XIN­HUA

Vis­i­tors at­tend an ex­hi­bi­tion of sculp­tures by Ital­ian artist Michelan­gelo at the New York Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art on Mon­day.

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