UNESCO welcomes pledge by Royal Dutch/Shell to stay out of world Heritage sitesUNESCO has welcomed the announcement by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies (Shell) not to explore for, or develop, oil and gas resources within any of natural World Heritage sites.
The announcement was made in Switzerland today by Sir Philip Watts, the Chairman of Shell’s Committee of Managing Directors. “The nature of our operations as an energy company means that we will have an impact on the environment. We know that we have a responsibility to ensure that impact is minimised and that the long-term legacy of our projects is a good one,” he said.
Shell undertook some years ago not to operate in the natural World Heritage sites of Sundarbans Forest in Bangladesh and in Oman. Today’s announcement, Sir Philip said, is an acknowledgement that “it is time to take that approach one step further […] From the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) to the Grand Canyon (USA), the outstanding value of the landscapes and biodiversity of these sites is well understood and formally recognized under the World Heritage Convention. The clear systems, rules and processes which support these sites provide a strong model of good practice and I hope that this kind of clarity can be developed for other protected areas.”
The announcement was welcomed by Francesco Bandarin, the Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “This first step in acknowledging the outstanding universal value of World Heritage - something which is absolutely irreplaceable if destroyed - is a clear indication of Shell’s willingness to continue supporting World Heritage preservation, through action and not only words,” he said.
The announcement by Shell follows the pledge made last week by the International Council on Mining and Metals, comprising 15 of the world’s largest mining companies, not to explore or mine in World Heritage sites.
UNESCO’s World Heritage List now numbers 754 sites, including 582 cultural, 149 natural and 23 mixed (natural and cultural) sites. There are 35 properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger, of which 17 are natural sites.