CHANGE IS CAT­A­STROPHIC

Global warm­ing im­per­ils one in four nat­u­ral World Her­itage sites– nearly dou­ble the num­ber from just three years ago, a re­port notes

The New Age (Free State) - - INSIDE - MAR­IËTTE LE ROUX BONN

Stake­hold­ers seem to be dead­locked

CLI­MATE change im­per­ils one in four nat­u­ral World 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 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 (IUCN), which re­leased the re­port at UN cli­mate talks in Bonn, Ger­many.

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

“Cli­mate change acts fast and is not spar­ing the finest trea­sures of our planet,” IUCN di­rec­tor-gen­eral Inger An­der­sen said.

The re­port found that 29% of World Her­itage sites faced “sig­nif­i­cant” cli­mate change threats and 7% – in­clud­ing the Ever­glades Na­tional Park in the US and Lake Turkana in Kenya – had a “crit­i­cal” out­look.

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

Ne­go­tia­tors are gath­ered in Bonn to work out a nuts and bolts rule book for ex­e­cut­ing the planet res­cue pact adopted by nearly 200 coun­tries in the French cap­i­tal in 2015.

The agree­ment seeks to limit av­er­age global warm­ing caused by green­house gases from fos­sil-fuel burn­ing to un­der two de­grees Cel­sius over pre-in­dus­trial lev­els and to 1.5°C if pos­si­ble.

The 1°C mark has al­ready been passed and sci­en­tists said on coun­try pledges to cut emis­sions, the world was headed for a 3°C fu­ture.

The IUCN mon­i­tors more than 200 nat­u­ral Her­itage Sites listed by the UN Ed­u­ca­tional Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (Unesco).

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, the big­gest on Earth – have been af­fected by “dev­as­tat­ing” bleach­ing events over the last three years, the IUCN re­port said.

Corals “bleach” when they are stressed by en­vi­ron­men­tal changes due to ocean warm­ing or pol­lu­tion.

The corals ex­pel the colour­ful al­gae that live in them and turn bone white.

“Re­treat­ing glaciers, also re­sult­ing from ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, threaten sites such as Kil­i­man­jaro Na­tional Park, which boasts Africa’s high­est peak and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, home to the largest Alpine glacier,” the union said. Wet­lands, low-ly­ing deltas, per­mafrost and fire-sen­si­tive ecosys­tems are also af­fected by changes to Earth’s cli­mate, it said.

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

“This adds to the ur­gency of our chal­lenge to pro­tect th­ese places.”

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

Tourism was the third-big­gest threat, fol­lowed by in­fra­struc­ture ex­pan­sion, min­ing, oil and gas ex­ploita­tion.

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 is the first of UN cli­mate en­voys since US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he would pull Amer­ica out of the hard-fought Paris Agree­ment, a move many fear will make the 2°C goal that much harder to reach. – AFP 7% were on a crit­i­cal list, in­clud­ing the Ever­glades Na­tional Park 1.5°C The 1°C mark has al­ready been passed, and sci­en­tists say that

PIC­TURE: AFP

BE­YOND THE PALE: An aerial view of the ex­tent of the Cairns Townsville co­ral reef bleach­ing.

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