Venice, one of the world’s most iconic cities, is at risk of being added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger due to the threats posed by climate change. The proposal by UNESCO comes as a wake-up call for the Italian government to take urgent action to protect the city.
Venice, built across 118 small islands, was designated as a World Heritage site in 1987 for its architectural splendour and its historical significance. However, the city has been facing numerous challenges, including a tourist influx and the more recent threats from climate change, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
Climate scientists have warned that Venice could be completely submerged by 2100 if measures are not taken to mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2019, the city experienced record floods that damaged St. Mark’s Basilica and other cultural sites. Since then, sea walls have been erected to protect the city from flooding, and glass barriers have been installed around the basilica to hold back high tides.
In addition to these measures, Venice has also taken steps to reduce tourism and related pollution. Italy banned cruise ships from approaching the island in 2021 and plans to implement a day-trip tourist fee. However, UNESCO believes that these measures are still insufficient and need to be further developed.
This is not the first time that UNESCO has considered putting Venice on the endangered-heritage list. In 2021, the city narrowly avoided the designation after the cruise ship ban. However, environmental activists criticized UNESCO for not addressing the multitude of crises facing the city.
UNESCO argues that adding a site to the endangered category can help in finding solutions before the situation worsens. One example cited by the agency is the barrier reefs in Belize, which were added to the list in 2009. In partnership with UNESCO, the government of Belize developed a plan to protect the reefs by halting oil exploration and drilling.
Apart from Venice, UNESCO has also recommended adding the city centre of Lviv and the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, to the list of endangered sites. These recommendations highlight the need for international support and remedial actions to protect the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
The proposal to add Venice to the List of World Heritage in Danger serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the threats posed by climate change. It is crucial for the Italian government to take sustainable and effective measures to protect this treasured cultural site. As climate change continues to pose an “existential threat” to preservation and conservation, it is imperative for countries around the world to prioritize the safeguarding of their World Heritage sites.