Climate Justice Programme

Help Climate
Justice Today

Climate Change Threatens World Heritage

Our Obligation to Protect World Heritage

 Climate change poses a direct threat to many World Heritage-listed  sites and urgent steps must be taken to protect them. The World Heritage  Convention seeks to establish an effective system of collective  protection of the world cultural and natural heritage of outstanding  universal value. The responsibility for the protection of world cultural  and natural heritage is primarily a matter for those States in which  the heritage is situated; however under the World Heritage Convention it  is also incumbent on the international community as a whole to  participate in the protection of the world cultural and natural  heritage.

A number of petitions have been lodged with the World Heritage  Committee requesting that sites threatened by climate change be added to  the List of World Heritage in Danger. Should any of these sites be  listed, this would oblige the World Heritage Committee to develop and  adopt, in consultation with the State concerned, a program for  corrective measures and a duty to monitor the situation.

In 2006 and in response to the petitions the World Heritage Committee  adopted a world heritage and climate change strategy focused on  adaptation. In June 2008, we made a joint submission with the US-based  International Environmental Law Project to the World Heritage Centre  seeking amendments to the Operational Guidelines to the World Heritage  Convention to enable nominations of sites most at risk from climate  change. In July 2008, the World Heritage Committee amended the  Operational Guidelines to allow for the listing of sites at risk from  climate change. However, no sites have been listed as in danger and  states are not implementing the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions  necessary to protect these sites from the impacts of climate change.

In June 2008, Stephen Leonard (CJP President) won the ACF Peter Rawlinson Award for his World Heritage work.