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31 World Heritage sites at risk from climate change : UN

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A new report shows World Heritage icons such as the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas of South Africa are at risk from climate change. Photo: ©UNESCO/Leila Maziz A new report shows World Heritage icons such as the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas of South Africa are at risk from climate change. Photo: ¬©UNESCO/Leila Maziz Photo: UNESCO/Leila Maziz

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New York : Some 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites in 29 countries across the world are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, a new report released by the United Nations has found.

The World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate report documents climate impacts including increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, intensifying weather events, worsening droughts and longer wildfire seasons, at iconic tourism sites such as Venice, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands.

It also covers other World Heritage sites such as South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom; the port city of Cartagena, Colombia; and Shiretoko National Park in Japan, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a press release.

“World governments, the private sector and tourists all need to coordinate their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to protect the world’s most treasured cultural and natural resources from the impact of tourism activities,” said Elisa Tonda, head of UNEP’s Responsible Industry and Value Chains Unit.

“Policies to decouple tourism from natural resource impacts, carbon emissions and environmental harm will engage a responsible private sector and promote change in tourists’ behaviour to realize the sectors’ potential in some of the world’s most visited places,” she added.

In addition to UNEP, the report was prepared by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Because World Heritage sites must have ‘Outstanding Universal Value,’ the report recommends that the World Heritage Committee consider the risk of prospective sites becoming degraded by climate change before they add them to the list.

In particular, the report highlights the urgent need to identify the World Heritage sites that are most vulnerable to climate change, and to implement policies and provide resources to increase resilience at those sites.

In addition, the report urges increased global efforts to meet the Paris Agreementclimate change pledges in order to preserve World Heritage sites for future generations.

“Globally, we need to better understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites,” said Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. “As the report’s findings underscore, achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to a level well below 2 degrees Celsius is vitally important to protecting our World Heritage for current and future generations.”

The report also recommends engaging the tourism sector in efforts to manage and protect vulnerable sites in the face of climate change, and to educate visitors about climate threats.

“Climate change is affecting World Heritage sites across the globe,” said Adam Markham, lead author of the report and Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“Some Easter Island statues are at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal erosion. Many of the world’s most important coral reefs, including in the islands of New Caledonia in the western Pacific, have suffered unprecedented coral bleaching linked to climate change this year. Climate change could eventually even cause some World Heritage sites to lose their status,” he added.

List of locations

Africa

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara, United Republic of Tanzania

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, South Africa

Lake Malawi National Park, Malawi

Arab world

Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab), Lebanon

Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan

Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata, Mauritania

Asia and the Pacific

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, Palau

Hoi An Ancient Town, Vietnam

Shiretoko, Japan

Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal

Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France)

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, Philippines

Golden Mountains of Altai, Russian Federation

East Rennell, Solomon Islands

North America

Yellowstone National Park, United States of America

Statue of Liberty, United States of America

Old Town Lunenburg, Canada

Mesa Verde National Park, United States of America

Latin America

Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena, Colombia

Coro and its Port, Venezuela

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Huascarán National Park, Peru

Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, Brazil

Rapa Nui National Park (Easter Island), Chile

Europe

Ilulissat Icefjord (Greenland), Denmark

Heart of Neolithic Orkney, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Wadden Sea, Netherlands, Germany and Denmark

Venice and its Lagoon, Italy

Source : un.org May 31, 2016

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 04:26

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