Kinabalu Park among 10 World Heritage sites emitting more carbon than it absorbs


KOTA KINABALU: Kinabalu Park, the national park surrounding Mount Kinabalu, has been listed among the 10 World Heritage sites that emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb, according to researchers.

A report on Thursday (Oct 28) released by Unesco on scientific assessment done with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), stated that the change from being carbon absorbers to carbon emitters is linked to climate change-fueled disasters and land-use in the past 20 years.

Located about two hours drive from the state capital in the hilly Kundasang district, the 754 sq km Kinabalu Park is Malaysia's first World Heritage Site designated by Unesco back in 2000.

It is also part of the Kinabalu Geopark, and efforts are currently ongoing to have the 4,750 sq km of surrounding area there recognised as a Unesco Global Geopark - where landscapes of international geological significance are managed holistically - as early as next year.

Meanwhile, the other World Heritage forests on the list include Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Indonesia), Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras), Yosemite National Park (United States), Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (Canada/US), and Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains (South Africa).

Also in the list were Uvs Nuur Basin (Russia/ Mongolia), Grand Canyon National Park (US), Greater Blue Mountains Area (Australia) and Morne Trois Pitons National Park (Dominica).

While the research found that the forests across all World Heritage sites can absorb approximately 190 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year from the atmosphere, between 2001 and 2020, many of these sites had shown an increase in emissions.

Their function as carbon sinks and stores have been under pressure and threatened by climate change, with associated severe weather like fires, storms, floods, droughts, and pressure from various human activities like illegal logging, wood harvesting and agricultural encroachment for farming and livestock.

The report suggested three measures to secure these forests as carbon sinks, which include rapid and effective responses to prevent devastation from climate-related events.

The two other actions recommended are support mechanisms by protecting the sites' broader landscapes, and integrating World Heritage sites into climate, biodiversity and sustainable development agendas.

The Unesco World Heritage forests can continue to be reliable carbon sinks only if they are protected from local and global threats effectively, the researchers added.

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