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UNESCO welcomes Shell's pledge not to seek oil or gas in World Heritage sites

UNESCO welcomes Shell's pledge not to seek oil or gas in World Heritage sites

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today welcomed the announcement by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies (Shell) that it would not explore or develop oil and gas resources within any of the natural World Heritage sites.

"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," Francesco Bandarin, Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, said.

The Organization'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.

Shell's announcement follows a 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.

Shell undertook some years ago not to operate in the natural World Heritage sites of Sundarbans Forest in Bangladesh and in Oman. The chairman of Shell's Committee of Managing Directors, Sir Philip Watts, said today's announcement was an acknowledgement that "it is time to take that approach one step further…From the Great Barrier Reef [in Australia] to the Grand Canyon [in the United States], 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," he added.