BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 16 June '16

New UN report shows World Heritage icons around the world are at risk from climate change

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.

Stonehenge to the Galapagos

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.

‘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.

‘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,.’

ELISA TONDA
Head of UNEP’s Responsible Industry and Value Chains Unit

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

Identifying vulnerable sites

Because World Heritage sites must have ‘Outstanding Universal Value,’ the report recommends that the World Heritage Committee considers 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.

‘Globally, we need to better understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites.

‘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.’

MECHTILD RÖSTER
Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre

The report also urges increased global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement’s climate change pledges in order to preserve World Heritage sites for future generations.

Working with tourist industry

The report 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. 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.’

ADAM MARKHAM
Lead author of the report

Click here to read the full report, World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate (2016).