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UNESCO: Great Barrier Reef should be listed as 'in danger'
UNESCO has warned about the critical conditions of the Great Barrier Reef. The UN body has asked to put it "in danger" on the World Heritage Sites list. UNESCO already asked for this in 2017 after the massive degradation of the reef, which became “World Heritage” in 1981. At that time, Australia committed $2.2 billion investment to improve the reef’s health, but no big changes have occured since. It keeps bleaching due to the warming of oceans, which worries experts. In 2019, the reef's condition was updated to “very poor” instead of "poor".
Although the reef extends on the north-east coast for 2300 km, Australia has contested the request and has a meeting scheduled next month to discuss it. Australia is firmly criticized for its inaction regarding climate change. The country is one of the major gas and oil exporters and has not committed to stronger climate action nor has it pledged to net zero emissions by 2050. Even earlier this month at the G7 Summit in the UK, the prime minister has refused to make more ambitious climate commitments even though the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s climate policy has been already criticized by inhabitants during the violent bushfires ravaging Australia in 2019.
The downgrading of the reef would become an unprecedented move as no World Heritage Site has ever been listed as “in danger” because of climate change before.
The feud between UNESCO and Australia is not recent. The country does not seem to be aware that refusing the modification of the statue of the reef could not only contribute to its degradation, but also negatively affect the image of Australia. It seems that organizations or tourists are even more aware of the emergency of tackling climate change and refusing to classify the reef mirrored a lack of commitments and willingness.
IPCC steps up warning on climate tipping points in leaked draft report
A draft of the next report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was leaked to the Agence France Presse. The IPCC is preparing a landmark report planned to be partially published in summer 2021. The entire report should be released by 2022, but not in time for the COP26 in November in Glasgow. Scientists warn about irrevocable consequences of climate change on humankind and biodiversity. The draft focuses on tipping points, but also on major effects climate change could have. The report presents temperature levels that should never be reached in order to maintain decent living conditions for human beings. One of the main concerns of the experts is the melting of polar ice sheets, which has multiple consequences on ecosystems, including sea level rise, methane release, and threats to coastal living populations. Another concern is rainforests and droughts as this could affect food security, employment, and climate migration.
For some experts, the report is an unprecedented warning since the IPCC has taken into account thresholds that should not be exceeded. Previous reports were not insisting enough on tipping points and the IPCC presented twelves in this draft.
Action is needed even quicker than we expected. Although climate consequences may vary from region to region, global initiatives and climate commitments are crucial. The IPCC warns us about the climate emergency and its urgency.
Legal experts worldwide draw up ‘historic’ definition of ecocide
A few months ago, the French Parliament was discussing a historic climate law; however, environmental non-governmental organizations were offended by the lack of credibility of the measures. A few details were strongly criticized, such as the unfulfilled promise of the government about the crime of ecocide. Indeed, the law was only presenting an “offense” (in French, délit), which has a different juridical meaning. One of the main arguments from the French government was the lack of definition of the concept of “ecocide”. This is not the case anymore. This week, worldwide legal experts have gathered to define the term “ecocide”. Defines as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”.
The group of experts has presented the definition to the international court, which is now analyzing it before officially adopting it. If it dies, it could become the fifth crime recognized by the court alongside war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression defined after the World War II (when Nazi leaders were judged for their acts and liabilities). For the first time, the environment could be put at the core of an international law.
However, this is not new as some countries and communities have been asking for this. In 1972, the Swedish Prime Minister was asking for a global concept. Some small island nations have also been fighting for this offense to be recognized and many campaigns have been launched to protect communities from damaged ecosystems.