350.org calls on UNESCO to prioritise Culture over Coal

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Climate activists ask UNESCO to step in to protect key World Heritage Sites at risk from coal development

PARIS-Activists gathered outside UNESCO headquarters today to shine a light on the Heritage Sites around the world threatened by coal development. They ask that UNESCO step up to be a leader on climate change, by specifically stopping coal developments from ruining Heritage Sites and by calling for governments around the world to fulfil the Paris Agreement. Communities are also calling for many of these sites to be included in the Endangered list. (Footnote 1)

“The action comes at a crucial time for the people of Lamu headed to court tomorrow, exercising their legal right to oppose the proposed Lamu coal project. We are calling on UNESCO to prioritise the preservation of invaluable heritage sites and send a strong message to fossil fuel industries”  Lerato Letebele, 350Africa Communications Coordinator.    

Climate activists from 350.org created a sombre tableau in front of UNESCO headquarters in Paris today. 10 activists, dressed in black to represent the grim future of whole ecosystems and communities at risk from coal, displayed a banner reading “Protect Culture, Not Coal” and built symbolic charcoal cairns, or stone-made tumulus, used in mountains to help lost

travellers find their way back. The petitions were received by Ms Mechtild Rossler, Director of the World Heritage Centre on behalf of UNESCO, with an acknowledgement of the important role played by civil society in raising awareness of these issues. Ms Rossler also confirmed that UNESCO has already recommended that the Sundarbans be placed on the Endangered list. 

350.org is urging UNESCO officials to show leadership in standing up to fossil fuel developments that drive catastrophic climate change and compromise our global heritage. UNESCO is in the process of developing ‘Ethical principles in relation to climate change’, currently in draft form, due to be finalised at the General Conference in November 2017.

If the $2 billion proposed Amu project goes ahead, Lamu will forever be altered by dirty coal. The environmental impacts of Kenya’s first coal-fired power plant will destroy the island’s fragile ecosystem and endanger the livelihoods of more than 120,000 people living in Lamu County.

 “We have to protect our heritage from Amu Power Company and denounce coal projects that accelerate climate disasters. The Kenyan government must show commitment to international agreements to reducing emissions” concluded Letebele.

 Image by: Eros Sana

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