Working Group Meeting to Develop the Draft Policy Paper on Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Properties, 05-06 February 2007

By its decision 30 COM 7.1 the World Heritage Committee endorsed the "Strategy to assist States Parties to implement management responses" and took note of the report on "Predicting and managing the impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage", which were prepared following a meeting of experts in March 2006.

The Committee also requested that a policy document be prepared on the impacts of climate change on World Heritage properties, in consultation with various stakeholders. Because the subject has already been discussed in detail in the aforementioned Strategy and Report, it was decided that the draft policy paper should focus mainly on addressing the issues listed under (a) to (e) of paragraph 13 of decision 30 COM 7.1.

In order to help in the development of the policy paper and to guide discussion during the Working Group Meeting, a background document was prepared. The World Heritage Centre helped draft the section on synergies with other international conventions and organizations. The future research needs section of the background document was prepared by the Advisory Bodies, along with input from the University of College London Centre (UCL) Centre for Sustainable Heritage. The section on legal questions and alternative mechanisms, other than the List of World Heritage in Danger, to address concerns of international implication, such as climatic change, was prepared by the IUCN Environmental Law Programme (ELP), in Bonn, Germany. All States Parties to the Convention were requested to send their contributions, covering the above-mentioned points, for the development of the policy paper. Specific contributions made by the States Parties were integrated in the relevant parts of the background document. In addition, case studies related to climate change and World Heritage were submitted by some delegations.

On 05-06 February 2007, approximately 40 individuals, representing experts from different regions, United Nations Conventions, UNESCO Sectors, the World Heritage Centre and its Advisory Bodies, convened at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France to develop the draft policy paper on impacts of climate change on World Heritage Properties.

Day 1 of the Working Group Meeting was split into four sessions. During Session 1, Mr Francesco Bandarin, Director WHC, welcomed all the participants. Mr Kishore Rao, Deputy Director WHC, briefed the participants on the World Heritage Committee Decision 30COM 7.1, the background document, and the expected outputs of the Working Group Meeting.

To open Session 2 on Synergies, the plenary heard presentations by various Conventions on possible synergies with the World Heritage Convention concerning climate change. Presentations were made by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). There was then an open discussion on synergies. For Session 3 on Future Research Needs, presentations were given by Mr Bastian Bomhard of IUCN, Prof May Cassar of UCL, and Dr Thomas Schaaf of the UNESCO Global Change and Mountain Regions (GLOCHAMORE) Project, prior to an open discussion on the subject. Dr Ben Boer of the IUCN Environmental Law Programme gave a presentation on Legal Questions and Alternative Mechanisms, for Session 4, followed by an open discussion.

In the morning of Day 2, the group of experts was split into three drafting groups (Synergies, Future Research Needs, Legal Issues and Alternative Mechanisms), in order to commence drafting of the policy document, based upon discussions from Day 1. In the afternoon of Day 2, reports by the drafting groups were presented to the plenary and the overall draft policy document to be presented to the World Heritage Committee was discussed.

Currently, the draft policy document is being finalized. It will be circulated to a larger group of relevant climate change experts, practitioners of heritage conservation and management, and appropriate international organizations and civil society, for further commentary. A draft of the document will be presented to the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee in June 2007 in Christchurch, New Zealand, to be later discussed at the General Assembly of States Parties in October 2007.