[Coral-List] Climate Change; Dominican Republic

Hershowitz, Ari ahershowitz at nrdc.org
Mon Feb 14 09:57:23 EST 2005

Dear Coral List Members:
I am writing to pass on a request from a colleague at the Belize
Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO), asking for support
for BELPO's petition to declare the Belize Barrier Reef, a World
Heritage Site, "in danger", due to the threats from global climate
change.  The background on this petition, and details on how you can
express your views, are below.
I also wanted to update you on the petition to the Dominican Republic to
stop a destructive law that would have eliminated or reduced the size of
many of the national parks.  Nearly one hundred scientists from the
Coral List joined a petition asking the government not to go forward
with the law.  As a result, the law that was finally passed was *much*
less drastic, but nonetheless changed the level of protection for a
number of parks, including Jaragua National Park.  Dominican groups
challenged the law in court, and last week received a disappointing
decision from the Supreme Court upholding the new law.  They will now
work with the country's new government to ensure that the new law is not
used by developers to erode the environmental policies that the country
is rightly proud of, and that helped protect the DR from the worst of
recent floods.
Ari Hershowitz
Director, BioGems Project Latin America
Natural Resources Defense Council
**Scientist Support for World Heritage Petition on Climate Change**
In November 2004, a petition was submitted to the World Heritage
Committee asking for it to consider placing the Belize Barrier-Reef
Reserve System on the List of World Heritage in danger as a result of
climate change.  Danger-listing is a mechanism provided for in the World
Heritage Convention which is designed to afford greater protection to
sites facing serious and specific dangers. A copy of the petition can be
accessed from here:
<http://www.climatelaw.org/media/UNESCO.petitions.release>  scroll down
to end of page to find the link to the Belize petition)
It is well known that climate change poses a serious and specific threat
to the health of coral reefs, both from increased sea temperatures and
from increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In the case
of world heritage reefs - such as the Belize reefs, as well as the Great
Barrier Reef in Australia, the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park in The
Philippines and the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park in South Africa  -
there is a legal obligation on Parties to the World Heritage Convention
to transmit them to future generations. If action is not taken to reduce
emissions of greenhouse gases, and if measures are not taken to
strengthen the resilience of reefs to withstand the impact of climate
change, then this legal obligation will not be fulfilled. The
danger-listing mechanism, adopted by the international community to
address the kind of threats associated with climate change, is therefore
an appropriate procedure to invoke in order to ensure that effective
action is taken to ensure the protection of world heritage reefs and
thereby to comply with that legal obligation.
We, Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO)  would
welcome further support for the Belize petition from the scientific
community, but also encourage reef scientists to consider the additional
protection that could be achieved for other world heritage reefs through
the danger-listing procedure.
One way in which such support could be expressed for the Belize petition
would be to write, firstly, to each of the 21 governments which are
currently members of the World Heritage Committee. The Committee is the
statutory body responsible for decision-making on all matters related to
the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It will meet in
Durban from 10-17 July 2005 and we are hoping that consideration of the
Belize petition will be on the agenda. The current Committee members
are:  Argentina, Benin, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Japan,
Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway,
Oman, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, South Africa and the
United Kingdom.
Secondly, support could also be expressed to the Committee's
Secretariat, by writing to it at:
7, Place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France (tel: + 33-1-45 68 15
71) or
sending e-mails to: wh-info at unesco.org <mailto:wh-info at unesco.org> .
It would be greatly appreciated if you would send a copy of your letter
BELPO at belpobz at starband.net or mailing it to:
Candy Gonzalez
PO Box 105
San Ignacio, Cayo District
Belize, Central America
Candy Gonzalez
Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy

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