In a recent publication on the  SDG, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) recognizes that many World Heritage sites are impacted by industrial activities and operations, including oil and gas exploration and extraction.  The report on Mapping the oil and gas industry to the Sustainable Development Goals: an Atlas was co-authored with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Finance Cooperation (IFC).

The report states that where there is potential for impact on designated World Heritage sites, companies should conduct strategic environmental assessments and incorporate cultural heritage  into environmental, social and health impact assessments (ESHIAs).  The report recalls the established position by the World Heritage Committee that mineral, oil and gas exploration or development is incompatible with the World Heritage status. IPECA further states that this position is an important consideration for companies when assessing opportunities in or near World Heritage sites.

In 2003, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), representing the leading mining companies in the world together with the oil company Shell, made a landmark “No Go Commitment” not to explore or exploit for oil, gas or minerals in World Heritage properties.  At its 37th session in 2013, the World Heritage Committee requested the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to continue a dialogue with the extractive industries on extending this “No Go Commitment” to other companies and parts of the industry. Since then, some oil companies including Total, Tullow oil and SOCO have made similar commitments.

The Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre welcomes the acknowledgement by IPIECA that it is the responsibility of the industry to ensure that oil and gas activities do not jeopardize the conservation of World Heritage sites. “The recognition by the industry that these unique places should be off limits for oil and gas activities is crucial to ensure their long term conservation and we hope that this publication will incite more companies to join Shell, Total and others in subscribing to the “No Go Commitment”. We look forward to discuss with IPIECA  on how we can make the “no go principle” the accepted standard for the entire industry.”

The publication can be downloaded on the website of IPIECA: