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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2006 / 0710

0710

Friends of the Earth/ Climate Justice Programme Press Release

Embargoed: 00:01 hours GMT, Monday 10 July 2006

WORLD HERITAGE COMMITTEE MUST TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT EVEREST AND OTHER TOP SITES FROM CLIMATE CHANGE

Annual meeting discusses global warming threat

The World Heritage Committee is being urged by an international coalition of lawyers and environmentalists to take urgent action to protect some of the world's finest World Heritage Sites, including Mount Everest, from global warming when it discusses the issue at its annual meeting in Lithuania this week. The campaign has the backing of a number of eminent people, including Sir Edmund Hillary. The WHC is due to discuss the issue later today (Monday 10 July 2006).

The Committee is also due to receive the results of an investigation into the impact of climate change on World Heritage sites, carried out by a group of experts. The review was set up at last years WHC annual meeting after petitioners called for four WH sites to be placed on the World Heritage danger list because of the threats they faced from global warming. A fifth petition was submitted in February 2006. The sites are Mount Everest/ Sagarmatha National Park (glaciers), the Peruvian Andes (glaciers), Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the US and Canada and the Great Barrier and Belize Barrier (coral) Reefs [3].

The World Heritage Convention legally requires all countries to pass sites listed under the convention intact to future generations. But campaigners argue that unless urgent action is taken on climate change, this will not happen. The campaigners are calling on the World Heritage Committee to:

• recognize that countries that have signed up to the World Heritage Convention must significantly cut their greenhouse gas emissions as part of their duty to protect and transmit World Heritage Sites to future generations;

• spell out the need for those countries who are also Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and/or the Kyoto Protocol to take this duty into account when negotiating under the UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol processes;

• send a mission of qualified observers to visit each petition site, to evaluate the nature and extent of the threats and to propose the measures to be taken;

Co-Director of the Climate Justice Programme, Peter Roderick, said:

"The World Heritage Committee has a vital role to play in protecting the planet's best parts from climate change. The dangers are clear, and the main cause of the problem is known. The Committee has a duty to protect these sites. It must uphold the World Heritage Convention as an effective international agreement and recognize the legal need for significant cuts in climate pollution.”

Friends of the Earth International's climate campaigner, Catherine Pearce said:

"Climate change is already having a terrible impact on some of the world's most spectacular natural heritage sites. But the World Heritage Committee can play a crucial role in trying to protect these sites for future generations. It must pledge immediate action to try and mitigate the threat these sites face, and make it clear to the international community that cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are urgently needed.”

Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first man to summit Everest, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, is also backing the campaign to protect Everest (Sagarmatha National Park). In a statement last year he said:

"The warming of the environment of the Himalayas has increased noticeably over the last 50 years. This has caused several and severe floods from glacial lakes and much disruption to the environment and local people.

"I agree the practical idea of remedial action of draining the lakes before they get to a dangerous condition is the only way to stop disasters. Therefore I support the petition to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee lodged by Pro Public and others, requesting the inclusion of Sagarmatha National Park in the list of World Heritage in Danger as a result of climate change and for protective measures and action".

Notes

1. The 21 members of the World Heritage Committee are: Benin, Canada, Chile, Cuba, India, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lithuania (Chair), Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Spain, Republic of Korea, Tunisia and the United States of America ( http://whc.unesco.org/en/committeemembers/ ).

2. The 30th session of the Committee is taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 8 to 16 July 2006 ( http://whc.unesco.org/en/185/ ).

3. The dangers facing the five petition sites are summarized below, with links to the petitions, and contacts:

Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park, Nepal (SNP): The Himalayas have warmed about 1°C since the 1970s, almost twice the global average, affecting the SNP's peaks, dominated by Sagarmatha/Mount Everest, and its hundreds of glaciers and glacial lakes. This warming has led to the retreat of 67% of Himalayan glaciers, and an official study has identified several lakes in the SNP as potentially at risk of outburst flood. Continued melt will increase summer river flows for a few decades, with expected increased frequency of floods, followed by a severe reduction in flow to major rivers such as the Ganges and Indus as the glaciers disappear. It also poses an economic threat for Nepal, where the glacial melt is critical for the agricultural industry that 80% of the population relies on.

Petition link: http://www.climatelaw.org/media/UNESCO.petitions.release .
Contact in Vilnius 9-15 July(via Peter Roderick/ Catherine Pearce – see end of release)

Huascaran National Park, Peru (HNP): Since 1967, scientists estimate that more than 22% of the mass volume of glaciers in Cordillera Blanca, which the HNP covers, has been lost, most during the past five years. This has been accompanied by a warming tendency of 0.252°C per decade (1965-1994). The combination of high local seismic activity, climate change, increased glacier and hill-slope instability, and rapid increase in the development of high-altitude glacial lakes has created an extremely dangerous scenario for the two million people living within the immediate vicinity. In under 50 years, there could be no glaciers in the HNP and water will be scarce.

Petition link: http://www.climatelaw.org/media/UNESCO.petitions.release . Contact: Carlos Antonio Martin Soria Dall'Orso (Carlos Soria), Foro Ecologico del Peru, <carsoria@ec-red.com> (GMT -5h)

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Canada-USA (Waterton): Recent warming temperature (almost 2°C between 1910 and 1980) are causing most of this region's glaciers to retreat at an accelerating pace. Waterton is now at risk of losing its glaciers – the iconic symbol of the park. The US part of Waterton, Glacier National Park, once had over 150 glaciers, but only 27 remain. At the current rate of global warming, these glaciers are expected to all vanish by 2030. This will significantly change the aesthetics of the park and cause substantial changes in its ecosystem.

Petition link: http://www.climatelaw.org/media/UNESCO%20-%20Waterton-Glacier%20International%20Peace%20Park%20petition .
Contacts: Erica Thorson, Clinical Professor of Law, International Environmental Law Project, Oregon, US: + 1 503 768 6715 (GMT -8h) <ejt@lclark.edu> ; Kassie R. Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, California, US + 1 760 366 2232 x 302 (GMT -8h) http://www.biologicaldiversity.org

Great Barrier Reef, Australia (GBR): Coral bleaching of the world's longest barrier reef has increased significantly as human-induced, sea surface temperatures have risen over the last two decades, especially in 1998 and 2002. Thermal stress is projected to be 3-6 times higher in 2050 than even the worst recent period of thermal stress seen on coral reefs so far. Being perhaps the best managed marine park in the world will not make the GBR immune from the impacts of climate change.

Petition link: http://www.climatelaw.org/media/Australia.scigl.report . Contacts: Contacts: Louise Clifton, Media Officer, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, + 61 438 04 041(GMT +11h); Ilona Millar, Principal Solicitor, Environmental Defender's Office Ltd (NSW) <ilona.millar@edo.org.au> (GMT +11h).

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, Belize (BBR): The BBR includes seven marine protected areas that protect vital coastal ecosystems and communities and provides food and livelihoods for its inhabitants. It has bleached substantially over the last decade, especially in 1995, 1998 and 2005. Between 1997 and 1999 about half the live coral in Belize was lost due to the combination of bleaching and Hurricane Mitch, with at least one reef inside WHS's losing over 90% of their corals. There has been little recovery in the last eight years, possibly due to continued stress from warmer waters, hurricanes and growing localized impacts from the expanding tourism industry.

Petition link: http://www.climatelaw.org/media/UNESCO.petitions.release .
Contacts: Candy Gonzalez, Vice President, Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO), + 501 824-2476 (GMT -6h) <belpobz@starband.net> ; and/or Melanie McField, Coordinator, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, Smithsonian Institution <mcfield@healthyreefs.org> or <mcfieldm@si.edu> .

Further contacts and detailed Briefing:

Peter Roderick, co-Director, Climate Justice Programme, in Vilnius, + 44 7796 340 893 (mobile) (GMT +3h)

Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth International, in Vilnius, +44 (0)7811 283 641 (mobile) (GMT +3h)

Neil Verlander, Friends of the Earth Press Office (London), + 44 20 7566 1674 (GMT +1h)

Earth Press Office (London), + 44 20 7566 1674 (GMT +1h)

*World Heritage and Climate Change: complying with international law *

* Briefing *

* Summary *

The World Heritage Convention safeguards outstanding and irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage for all the peoples of the world, wherever it maybe, by designating World Heritage Sites. Under that Convention, Parties have a legal duty to protect and transmit such Sites to future generations. This duty is placed primarily on the host States. It extends, secondarily, to all State Parties, whose activities are damaging or could damage Sites situated in other countries. The major greenhouse gas emitting States are Parties to the World Heritage Convention and they will not fulfil this duty without significant cuts in their emissions.

Since 2004, 37 organizations and individuals have drawn attention to this legal duty as it relates to some of the world's most outstanding mountain areas and coral reefs facing climate change damage. They have submitted 5 petitions to the World Heritage Committee to add Mount Everest, the Peruvian Andes, US and Canadian glaciers, and the Great Barrier and Belize Barrier Reefs to the List of World Heritage in Danger because of climate change. The World Heritage Committee decides the question of whether to give a Site extra protection by adding it to the Danger List, and allocates funding.

At its 29th session in July 2005, the Committee held an unprecedented discussion on the issue of climate change and world heritage, acknowledging the petitions and the serious climate threats posed to World Heritage Sites. It asked a group of experts to report on these risks at its 30^th session in July 2006 in Lithuania, and this group met in Paris in March 2006. The Paris meeting recognized the unique scale and urgency of the risks, and in considering these at its meeting in Lithuania we want the 21-member Committee to:

*(1) recognize that the duty on State Parties to the World Heritage Convention to protect and transmit World Heritage Sites to future generations requires significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions;*

* *

*(2) note the need for those State Parties who are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and/or the Kyoto Protocol to take this duty into account when negotiating under the UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol processes;*

* *

*(3) decide to/ /send a mission of qualified observers to visit each petition site, to evaluate the nature and extent of the threats and to propose the measures to be taken.*

More information follows on the issues and the action the Committee needs to take.

*/
/*

*/1. All States have a legal duty to protect World Heritage/*

* *

The World Heritage (WH) Convention safeguards outstanding and irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage for all the peoples of the world, regardless of location. The main mechanism for doing this is the designation of World Heritage Sites. Under the Convention, Parties have a duty to ensure the protection and transmission of WH Sites to future generations. This duty is placed primarily on the host States (Art 4). It extends, secondarily, to all State Parties, whose activities are damaging or could damage WH Sites situated in other countries. Parties must establish policies and services for the protection of WH and undertake appropriate legal, scientific and other measures in this regard (Art 5). Parties recognize that such heritage constitutes a world heritage for whose protection it is the duty of the international community as a whole to co-operate (Art 6.1), and each State Party undertakes not to take any deliberate measures which * _ might _ * damage directly or indirectly WH Sites in other countries (Art 6.3).

*Developed countries that choose not to reduce their greenhouse gases emissions do so in the knowledge of the results of that choice for World Heritage glaciers and coral reefs, in their own and other countries, and for people's lives and livelihoods. *

*/2. The World Heritage Committee has specific obligations…../*

The WH Committee is responsible for the implementation of the WH Convention, establishes the List of World Heritage, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from State Parties.

The WH Convention provides that Committee decisions shall be taken by a majority of two-thirds of its members present and voting; and that a majority of Committee members constitutes a quorum (Art 13.8).

* / The 21 States Parties of the World Heritage Committee / *

/ /

* / Date of Election / *



* / State Party / *



* / Year membership ends / *

October 2001



India



2007

October 2003



Benin, Chile, Japan, Kuwait, Lithuania, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway



2007

October 2005



Canada, Cuba, Israel, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Peru, Spain, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, United States of America.



2009

*/ /*

*/....including the List of World Heritage in Danger/*

The WH Committee also has an obligation to establish, keep up to date and publish a List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Danger List is a mechanism to provide additional protection to WH Sites threatened by serious and specific dangers, for the conservation of which major operations are necessary, and for which assistance has been requested under the Convention (Art 11.3).

The Secretariat at the WH Centre ascertains the condition of a property that is threatened and the feasibility of taking corrective measures. The Committee may also decide to send a mission of qualified observers from IUCN or other organisations to visit the property, evaluate the nature and extent of the threats and propose preventative or corrective measures to be taken in response (Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (“OG”), paras 172-176). Properties may be added to the Danger List if they face “ascertained danger” (defined as “faced with specific and proven imminent danger”) or “potential danger” (defined as “faced with major threats which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics) (OG, para 180).

*The Committee shall allocate a specific and significant portion of the World Heritage Fund to financing of possible assistance to WH Sites on the Danger List (OG, para 189).*

The WH Committee has power to add a WH Site to the Danger List, without the consent of the host State, if necessary, by taking a decision to do so by a two-thirds majority of the voting and present members.

*Climate change danger listing petitions on World Heritage glaciers and coral reefs*

* World Heritage Site *



* Petitioners *

*Great Barrier Reef**, *Australia

(submitted September 2004)



  * Greenpeace Australia Pacific
  * Climate Action Network Australia

Report by the Sydney Centre for International & Global Law & the Environmental Defender's Office, New South Wales

*Sagarmatha National Park**,* Nepal

(submitted November 2004)

Statement of support, July 2005:

  * Sir Edmund Hillary



  * Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public)/Friends of
    the Earth Nepal
  * Prakash Mani Sharma
  * Pemba Dorjee Sherpa
  * Temba Tsheri Sherpa
  * Job Chandler Heintz, Esq.
  * Sir David Attenborough
  * Sir Chris Bonington
  * Reinhold Messner
  * Stephen Venables;
  * Richard Heap
  * Peter Roderick
  * Lalanath de Silva
  * International Public Interest Defenders (IPID)

*Belize** **Barrier Reef**,* Belize

(submitted November 2004)



  * Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO)

*Huascaran National Park**,* Peru

(submitted November 2004)



  * Foro Ecologico del Peru
  * Carlos Antonio Martin Soria Dall'Orso
  * Foro Ciudades Para La Vida
  * Arquitect Liliana Miranda

*Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park**,* US/Canada

(submitted February 2006)



  * Center for Biological Diversity
  * Center for International Environmental Law
  * David Suzuki Foundation
  * Defenders of Wildlife
  * Defenders of Wildlife–Canada
  * ForestEthics
  * Green House Network
  * Greenpeace USA
  * Humane Society International/Humane Society of the United States
  * International Environmental Law Project
  * Job Heintz
  * Montana Wilderness Association
  * Svitlana Kravchenko
  * The Pembina Institute
  * Wildlands CPR
  * Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

*/3. The World Heritage Committee has already recognised the climate threats after the filing of petitions and has begun to address the issue/*

Increasing temperatures are already affecting glaciers and coral reefs. These effects will get worse. The UNESCO website tells organizations and individuals that they can help by informing the Committee of existing threats to WH Sites. 37 organisations and individuals have therefore submitted five petitions to the Committee on climate change threats to WH Sites, as listed above. The main serious and specific dangers they are facing from climate change are listed below. The petition sites all face both ascertained and potential danger from climate change. In its unprecedented discussion and decision on the issue at its 29^th session in July 2005, the Committee noted the (then four) petitions, appreciated the genuine concerns raised, and also noted that “the impacts of climate change are affecting many and are likely to affect many more World Heritage properties, both natural and cultural in the years to come”.

The Committee requested the WH Centre to establish a broad working group of experts to review the risks. This group met in Paris in March 2006 to jointly develop a strategy and to report to the Committee at its meeting in July 2006 on “Predicting and managing the effects of climate change on World Heritage”. The Committee also encouraged UNESCO “to do its utmost to ensure that the results about climate change affecting World Heritage sites reach the public at large, in order to mobilize political support for activities against climate change and to safeguard in this way the livelihood of the poorest people of our planet.”

*/ /*

* Serious and specific dangers facing the five petition sites *

*Great Barrier Reef**, **Australia** (GBR)*

Coral bleaching of the world's longest barrier reef has increased significantly as human-induced, sea surface temperatures have risen over the last two decades, especially in 1998 and 2002. Thermal stress is projected to be 3-6 times higher in 2050 than even the worst recent period of thermal stress seen on coral reefs so far. Being perhaps the best managed marine park in the world will not make the GBR immune from the impacts of climate change.**

*Sagarmatha National Park**, **Nepal** (SNP)*

The Himalayas have warmed about 1°C since the 1970s, almost twice the global average, affecting the SNP's peaks, dominated by Sagarmatha/Mount Everest, and its hundreds of glaciers and glacial lakes. This warming has led to the retreat of 67% of Himalayan glaciers, and an official study has identified several lakes in the SNP as potentially at risk of outburst flood. Continued melt will increase summer river flows for a few decades, with expected increased frequency of floods, followed by a severe reduction in flow to major rivers such as the Ganges and Indus as the glaciers disappear. It also poses an economic threat for Nepal, where the glacial melt is critical for the agricultural industry that 80% of the population relies on.

*Belize** Barrier Reef Reserve **System**, **Belize** (BBR)*

The BBR includes seven marine protected areas that protect vital coastal ecosystems and communities and provides food and livelihoods for its inhabitants. It has bleached substantially over the last decade, especially in 1995, 1998 and 2005. Between 1997 and 1999 about half the live coral in Belize was lost due to the combination of bleaching and Hurricane Mitch, with at least one reef inside WHS's losing over 90% of their corals.

*Huascaran National Park**, **Peru** (HNP)*

Since 1967, scientists estimate that more than 22% of the mass volume of glaciers in Cordillera Blanca, which the HNP covers, has been lost, most during the past five years. This has been accompanied by a warming tendency of 0.252°C per decade (1965-1994). The combination of high local seismic activity, climate change, increased glacier and hill-slope instability, and rapid increase in the development of high-altitude glacial lakes has created an extremely dangerous scenario for the two million people living within the immediate vicinity. In under 50 years, there could be no glaciers in the HNP and water will be scarce.**


*Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park**, **Canada**-**USA** (Waterton)*

Recent warming temperature (almost 2°C between 1910 and 1980) are causing most of this region's glaciers to retreat at an accelerating pace. Waterton is now at risk of losing its glaciers – the iconic symbol of the park. The US part of Waterton, Glacier National Park, once had over 150 glaciers, but only 27 remain. At the current rate of global warming, these glaciers are expected to all vanish by 2030. This will significantly change the aesthetics of the park and cause substantial changes in its ecosystem.

* *

*/4. The World Heritage Committee must now act to ensure compliance with international law for the benefit of future generations/*

The damage that has already occurred to these sites will only get worse. As IUCN stated in March 2006, “there is little doubt that climate change will impact on the natural values and integrity of World Heritage sites, thus affecting their outstanding universal value and,

potentially, their listing as a natural World Heritage property”.

If governments are to support the WH Convention as an effective legal instrument for protecting the most outstanding parts of our planet, it is necessary to make significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and to ensure best management practices (adaptation). Both must be urgently addressed, as adaptation without mitigation would be futile.

This requires joined-up thinking, and standing both inside and outside the bureaucratic boxes, as Parties to the WH Convention, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (KP) are essentially the same States.

We now need the same kind of joined-up thinking on World Heritage and climate change that the international community showed is possible to protect whales from trade, when Parties to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) asked Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) not to allow trade in whale products until the IWC lifts the moratorium on commercial whaling.

The Committee has already responded positively to the petitions, and to the issue of climate change, and now is the time for it to take urgent action.


*At its 30^th session in July 2006 in **Lithuania**, it is therefore necessary for the World Heritage Committee to:*

* *

*(1) recognize that the duty on State Parties to the World Heritage Convention to protect and transmit World Heritage Sites to future generations requires significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions;*

* *

*(2) note the need for those State Parties who are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and/or the Kyoto Protocol to take this duty into account when negotiating under the UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol processes;*

* *

*(3) decide to/ /send a mission of qualified observers to visit each petition site, to evaluate the nature and extent of the threats and to propose the measures to be taken.*

* *

* *

* *

* Contacts and further information *

* *

*Great Barrier Reef**, **Australia** *

Louise Clifton, Media Officer, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, + 61 438 04 041(GMT +11h)

Ilona Millar, Principal Solicitor, Environmental Defender's Office Ltd (NSW)

<ilona.millar@edo.org.au> (GMT +11h)

*Sagarmatha National Park**, **Nepal** *

Prakash Sharma, Pro Public/Friends of the Earth Nepal: + 9771 4269 828 <propublic@wlink.com.np>

Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth International: + 44 20 7566 7123; + 44 07811 283641 (mobile)

*Belize** Barrier Reef Reserve **System**, **Belize** *

Candy Gonzalez, Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO),

+ 501 824-2476 (GMT -6) belpobz@starband.net <mailto:belpobz@starband.net>

Melanie McField, Coordinator, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, Smithsonian Institution <mcfield@healthyreefs.org> or < mcfieldm@si.edu <mailto:mcfieldm@si.edu> >

*Huascaran National Park**, **Peru** *

Carlos Antonio Martin Soria Dall'Orso (Carlos Soria), Foro Ecologico del Peru

<carsoria@ec-red.com>

*Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park**, **Canada**-**USA** *

Erica Thorson, Clinical Professor of Law, International Environmental Law Project, Oregon, US: + 1 503 768 6715 (GMT -8h) < ejt@lclark.edu <mailto:ejt@lclark.edu> >
Kassie R. Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, California, US
+ 1 760 366 2232 x 302 (GMT -8h) http://www.biologicaldiversity.org

More information on the petitions, including copies, are available here:

http://www.climatelaw.org/media/UNESCO.petitions.release

Peter Roderick, Climate Justice Programme, + 44 20 7388 3141 June 2006


-- 

-- 

Neil Verlander
Press Officer
Friends of the Earth
020 7566 1674
07712 843 209 (m)
www.foe.co.uk

Press office direct line: 020 7566 1649

 

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