The emergency plan for the resilience of the coral reefs of the UNESCO World Heritage (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was presented on April 14, 2022 in Palau, an island state located in Oceania. The plan, which is limited to UNESCO World Heritage coral reefs, includes two sites in Africa.
The warming of ocean temperatures, due to global CO2 emissions, is the primary threat to coral reefs. It reduces the life expectancy of corals, through early bleaching. « This year, for the first time, massive coral bleaching has even occurred during a traditionally cooler period, known as La Niña. According to the current scenario of emissions, all the world heritage reefs may disappear by the end of the century, » explains Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
A study presented on the side-lines of the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change explains that coral reefs live and thrive at temperatures between 25 ° C and 40 ° C, and if the temperature exceeds this limit, the reefs bleach and eventually die.
In response to the negative impact of global warming on reef ecosystems, UNESCO’s Director General took the opportunity of the seventh edition of the international summit « Our Ocean », held from 13 to 14 April 2022 in Palau (an island state located in Oceania) to launch the emergency plan for the resilience of the coral reefs of the UNESCO World Heritage. The plan, implemented in partnership with the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR), a public-private fund led by the United Nations, will invest in climate resilience strategies. Actions will focus on reducing local drivers of degradation, sustainable management of marine protected areas and support for local communities.
There are 29 World Heritage sites with coral reefs, including 19 sites in developing countries and two sites in Africa (iSimangaliso Wetland Park in eastern South Africa, and Mukkawar Island in Sudan).
The impact of human activities
The degradation of reef ecosystems is not only caused by global warming. Human activities also have a negative impact on the development of coral reefs. On the African side of the Red Sea, for example, illegal and destructive fishing methods, unsustainable coastal and land-based developments that cause encroachment and pollution in coral reef areas, as well as tourism overcapacity, contribute to coral reef degradation.
Faced with this situation, that projects similar to the emergency plan for the resilience of coral reefs of the Unesco World Heritage are also launched in other African countries. During the 7th edition of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development held from 28 to 30 August 2019, Japan has committed to funding projects to protect reef ecosystems in countries benefiting from the new agreement on the Blue Growth Initiative: Kenya, Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles.