Integrating climate adaptation, coral reef restoration and UNESCO World Heritage sites

On October 29, 2018, it was announced that—for the first time—UNESCO World Heritage coral reef restoration and conservation managers will partner with global climate resilience experts and local community stakeholders to build and embed comprehensive resilience strategies into their management of World Heritage sites.

The project builds on the capacity of reef managers to work locally and enables a global network of flagship protected area managers to create innovative approaches that can help fast track resilience of coral reefs in hot spots around the globe. The new initiative was announced as part of the high-level commitments at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia.

Left to right: John Kerry, Jane Lubchenco, Philippe Germain (Pres. of New Caledonia), Isabel De Saint Malo de Alvarado (VP of Panama), Abraham Goram, Dona Bertarelli, Fanny Douvere, Brett Jenks. Malcolm Turnbull. Photo credit: Our Ocean 2018

The UNESCO World Heritage List includes 29 coral reef systems that are of outstanding value to humanity. But soaring ocean temperatures over the past three years has caused some of the worst bleaching ever observed. The third global gathering of marine World Heritage managers in 2016 revealed that none of these iconic ocean places are adequately equipped to understand climate trends or had a climate adaptation strategy in place.

While limiting earth temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement is critical for the future survival of World Heritage Listed coral reefs, at the local level sites need to focus on building resilience to give them the best chance to adapt to a changing climate, says Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. Ms Rössler also referred to the recent decision by the World Heritage Committee that requested all States Parties to strengthen all efforts to build resilience of World Heritage properties to climate change

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Photo via Adobe Stock

The four-year, $9 million (USD) project will build climate resilience leadership in an initial five of the world’s most treasured coral reefs and their communities, including Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), Lagoons of New Caledonia (France), Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize), Ningaloo Coast and the Great Barrier Reef (Australia).

The initiative is led by an international consortium of partners, including UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the Rockefeller Foundation and its 100 Resilient Cities, BHP Foundation, The Nature Conservancy’s Reef Resilience Network, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the global consultancy in environmental engineering, AECOM.

Featured photo of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple in Bali via Adobe Stock.

See Our Ocean Conference website.

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