Wins and challenges at World Heritage Committee
Our delegation at the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee helped shape some strong decisions affecting priority sites.
The Committee forced Spain to end plans to dredge the Guadalquivir river that would endanger Doñana National Park; gave Mexico six months to report on progress to save the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita; kept pressure on Belize to safeguard its stunning barrier reef; and required Poland to report on the protection of the Białowieża Forest.
Significantly, language from the Paris Agreement on climate change was added to the responsibilities of States Parties of the World Heritage Convention.
The Committee also noted that proposed developments could wipe out vast areas of Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, asked for a strategic environmental assessment of the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower dam, and requested that Tanzania consider other power generation options.
EU action to protect Białowieża Forest
The European Commission is taking Poland to the European Court of Justice because of increased logging in the Białowieża Forest in breach of EU law.
This follows a complaint from WWF and seven Polish and international NGOs.The Commission has also taken measures to prevent further destruction of Białowieża’s natural resources pending the court’s judgement.
The ancient Białowieża Forest, the last remaining part of the primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain, is protected by EU law and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Extensive logging is taking place, including in old-growth forest stands, despite repeated warnings by the Commission and UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which only recently urged Poland to bring an immediate halt to wood extraction in the old-growth forests.
Białowieża Forest is the best-preserved forest ecosystem and the best-preserved old-growth lowland forest in Europe, and is home to Europe’s largest bison population.
G20 shows ambition on curbing climate change
At their summit in Hamburg, Germany, all G20 members, other than the United States, committed to ensuring full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement through cooperation on enhanced delivery of national climate contributions, delivering long-term plans by 2020 and with independent monitoring of financial flows.
Their pledge comes just weeks after US President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Agreement approved in December 2015.
Welcoming the commitment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice, said: “By accelerating progress under the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, G20 nations have shown their determination to create a global transformation that will shape national economies, people’s well-being and prosperity for years to come.’’
Laos and Vietnam celebrate six years of conservation
The governments of Laos and Vietnam, WWF and KfW, the German development bank, are celebrating the successful conclusion of the six-year Carbon Sinks and Biodiversity Project (CarBi), the most ambitious transboundary programme in the history of WWF’s involvement in the Greater Mekong region.
More than 240,000 hectares of forests in the Central Annamite Mountains are now protected, new species have been discovered and a world-class forest-guard system created.
The guards have developed a robust record of patrolling and data collection – more than 100,000 snares and 1,800 logging camps have been destroyed.
The management effectiveness of the protected area has improved significantly, and 16,300 local people have benefited from the creation of a development economy that has generated more than 170,000 work days and around US$1.8 million in income.
North America’s first AWS certification
WWF has played a formative role shaping the concept of water stewardship – almost a decade ago a group of NGOs, including WWF, came together to discuss the possibility of codifying “good and responsible water stewardship”.
In 2009, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) was born and currently has more than 75 members and certifications in Africa, Asia and Australasia.
Now, for the first time, a North American facility has gained AWS certification: the Nestlé Waters factory in Ontario, California.
Nelson Switzer, Nestlé Waters North America’s Chief Sustainability Officer, commented, “We take our responsibility as a water steward seriously, and understand how important it is. Achieving and maintaining AWS certification will help us continue leading water stewardship practices through efficiency, water resource management and community engagement.”
Urgent call to heighten vigilance on wildlife crime
WWF is calling for an urgent clamp-down on international organized ivory trade syndicates, as Hong Kong seized more than 7 tonnes of ivory inbound from Malaysia.
While WWF commends the vigilance of Hong Kong’s authorities in intercepting the consignment and making crucial arrests, the seizure is a stark reminder of the scale of the trade.
Hong Kong is a major hub, with 33,000 kilos being seized between 2000 and 2013.
“WWF hopes that the Legislative Council will pass tougher penalties for illegal wildlife trading,” said Cheryl Lo, Senior Wildlife Crime Officer, WWF-Hong Kong.
“These tusks represent the deaths of hundreds of elephants,” added Margaret Kinnaird, Leader of WWF’s Wildlife Practice. “With our partners, WWF is working across elephant range states to re-establish populations but these seizures highlight the size of our task.”