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Countries with coral reefs urged to do more to tackle climate change- 13th July

Coral reef

Coral reef bleaching is a natural phenomenon in which increasing sea temperatures are causing stress to the coral reefs which results in the coral turning white and in some cases dying. It is not a process which can be reversed.

Between 2014 and 2017, coral reefs in every major region had been bleached, with over 70% of world heritage listed sites having severe or repeated heat stress.

The countries owning these listed sites have been urged by Unesco to be more ambitious with their climate change targets in an attempt to keep temperature increase to 1.5C. Any higher and the coral reefs may not survive.

Recently Unesco held a world heritage meeting in Krakow, Poland. The committee all agreed that those countries with ownership of the reefs all need to increases their responsibility of the sites in order to protect them.

Most of these countries assumed the risk came from local threats, such as water pollution or overfishing. However Unesco’s first published global assessment of climate change on coral reefs has claimed that local efforts are now insufficient. In order to tackle coral bleaching, there is a need to keep global temperatures from increasing further and keep temperatures from increasing past 1.5C.

Although the emphasis has been put onto countries with listed coral reef sites, there is still an invitation for all state parties to attempt the address climate change and keep their carbon dioxide levels down. By doing this it could be possible to protect all world heritage sites, not just the coral reefs.

Currently all the countries with a listed reef have a combined projected target to allow an increase of 2.7C in temperature by 2100. Therefore without intervention it appears reefs will continue to be bleached any many will die completely.

Climate Action Tracker has identified that some of these countries are not even doing enough to reach the 2.7C target. Australia owns the largest coral reef in the world- the Great Barrier Reef- and their targets are expected to have a temperature increase of 3-4C by 2100. Currently Australia does not have any policies in place to reach their targets and emissions are expected to continue to rise for decades to come.

As the Great Barrier Reef is not currently on the in-danger world heritage site list, this may be why Australia does not feel any urgency to take action. However, Unesco claims climate change may still be a threat to the Great Barrier Reef and it may be put onto the in-danger list by 2020.

Therefore according to Earthjustice attorney Noni Smith, in order to protect all the reefs around the world, reports suggest the Paris Agreement needs to be implements urgently to give the reefs a chance to thrive and survive

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