1 June, 2022

Managing climate change risks to world heritage using the In Danger List: Griffith climate action beacon policy discussion paper


Imogen Zethoven, Bill Hare, Terry Hughes, Cyril Kormos, Brendan Mackey, Tim Stephens, Virginia Young

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (hereafter, the World Heritage Convention). This year is a time to celebrate achievements and reflect on the success of the Convention’s goals and the challenges that lie ahead. Of the many challenges, climate change has become “the most prevalent threat” to natural World Heritage sites and the greatest future threat.

This Discussion Paper considers how the World Heritage Convention’s ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’ could be used more effectively for managing sites threatened by climate change or where climate change has already caused significant degradation.

The purpose of the paper is to stimulate ideas and discussion to help further develop and finalise the draft Policy Document on climate action for World Heritage which is due to be adopted by the General Assembly of State Parties to the Convention in 2023.

We use Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) - one of the world’s most iconic World Heritage sites and the world’s largest coral reef system – as a case study to explore the implications of inscribing a site on the List of World Heritage in Danger partly or primarily due to climate change impacts. We draw upon this case study to propose a set of measures to protect World Heritage against growing climate risks.