July 4, 2019

UNESCO fails to condemn new coal plants threatening Sundarbans mangrove forests of Bangladesh

Baku, Azerbaijan—4th July 
The 21-members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee have today decided not to add the Sundarbans World Heritage site of Bangladesh to its List of World Heritage in Danger during its annual session, despite the calls and messages sent from all over the world asking to save the world’s largest mangrove forest from coal. 
“ It is sad that the Committee could not take the bold decisions to denounce Rampal and other coal plants to be built near the Sundarbans. It is another example of how decisions in these bodies are getting politicized. They couldn’t address the real climate crisis and the impacts that communities in Bangladesh will be facing as a result of climate breakdown. In a years time, it may already be too late to save the largest mangrove forest in the world.” says Tonny Nowshin, bangladeshi campaigner for 350.org. 
The initial draft decision expressed deep concerns about the three coal-power plants in Rampal, Taltoli and Kelapara, the final declaration makes no mention of these any longer. The effort to water down the original text was spearheaded by China. China is investing more than 7 billion USD in the development of new coal infrastructure in Bangladesh as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese investment plan includes the Payra Coal-Plant Hub, that directly threatens the Sundarbans : any mention of Payra got taken out from the initial draft decision. Chinese coal diplomacy found support of countries where Beijing funds coal fired-plants as well, such as Bosnia. 
The Committee completely failed to acknowledge the existence of cheap renewable energy options. It also ignores the growing consensus on the imperative need to phase out coal globally, and the fact that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself stressed that we must quite coal by 2020 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change scenario. 
Dr. Sajed Kamal, member of NCSS attending the Baku meeting, said, “Now, when the whole world is moving towards a renewable energy revolution, Bangladesh doesn’t have to be a dumping ground for outdated dirty coal technologies. It is terrible that Sundarbans and its communities might have to bear the consequences of it.”
“ However, thanks to all the people who joined and strengthened the movement to save the Sundarbans over the years, we could come to Baku to make the people’s voice heard in an international arena. We submitted our petition and were able to put pressure on the Committee members. We feel stronger, and we will continue our fight to save the Sundarbans from destruction. ” concluded Nowshin. 
 Baku :  Tonny Nowshin, tonny.nowshin@350.org /+4917647153807
Global: kim.bryan@350.org / +44 756466 5669