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.
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