The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has warned in a new report that nearly one in three natural world heritage sites are at risk of exploration for fossil fuels and mining.

Among those listed at risk are Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of natural world heritage sites in Africa, more than six in ten are threatened with development. The threat level relates to active operations by extractive companies, or intrusion that may come as a result of concessions for exploration of minerals or oil and gas overlapping these sites.

Potential financial backers are urged in the document to:

  • Ensure they are aware of whether those they are (or are considering) investing in have concessions or operate within natural World Heritage Sites;
  • Engage directly with extractive companies that are active in or near these sites to encourage them to change their plans;
  • To consider divestment from these companies if progress is not made to leave the site, and to disclose when they’ve divested and why.

WWF is calling on investors  to use the evidence in the report to engage with the extractive sector at industry level to encourage the wider adoption of ‘no go’ and ‘no impact’ commitments for natural WHS, and for companies to  proactively disclose active, existing, or intended activity within, or adjacent to, natural World Heritage Sites.

Natural World Heritage Sites are home to some of the rarest and most treasured animals on Earth, such as mountain gorillas, African elephants, snow leopards, whales and marine turtles.

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