Release of UIAA Social & Environmental Sustainability Guidelines imminent

Featured, Mountain Protection, Statements

To mark International Mountain Day 2023, the UIAA is reporting on the positive progress, and near finalisation, of its updated UIAA Environmental Objectives and Guidelines.

These guidelines were first released in 2002 to mark the inaugural International Year of Mountains. A decision to revise the document was made in 2022 to coincide with the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development and the 2023-2027 UN Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions.

In reality, the UIAA and spearheaded by its Mountain Protection Commission, has embarked on significantly more than a simple revision of the 2002 document. The new publication, to be released in early 2024, will be titled ‘UIAA Social & Environmental Sustainability Guidelines’, in recognition of the close connection between people and nature.

There have been significant developments over the last 20 years in our understanding of the impact of climate change, in the science and evidence of its impact on mountain regions, and in the commitment and responsibility of organisations, such as the UIAA, to not only monitor its own footprint, to adapt to the results of such reports, but also provide leadership and guidance on an international level.

Carolina Adler, President of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission, reflects on the importance of the new guidelines:

These updated guidelines not only reflect the numerous conversations had over the years within the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission on key issues that affect, and are affected by, our mountain activities. We have also been keenly inspired by the stories and lessons that have emerged from projects showcased as part of the Mountain Protection Award and its 10-year legacy, including the valuable inputs and advise from external experts serving as part of our assessment team.

Furthermore, the platform offered by recent UN proclamations in raising awareness around the importance of mountains, and their value for the people and ecosystems that depend on them, was indeed a timely opportunity for this revision as a contribution to that observance. We are very grateful for the value that the UIAA places on active engagement and leadership around sustainability, and I hope that our members and the climbing and mountaineering community will join us in “walking the talk” as active and positive change agents”.

The new document raises a number of topics and addresses the impact of mountaineering as an activity. Sections are dedicated to the subjects of climate change action and adaptation, waste and pollution, biodiversity and social impacts. As well as addressing issues, the document also seeks to provide guidance, awareness, education and collaboration. For example, it offers advice on how the climbing community can take positive action and how climbers and mountaineers can continue about their activities in a more sustainable and less impactful way and engage in affecting positive change.

The updated guidelines received a very positive reception and “in principle” endorsement at the joint UIAA Executive Committee and Management Board meeting that preceded this year’s General Assembly, with relevant themes and excerpts cited in dialogues and presentations featured at the UIAA Climate Summit event as part of the General Assembly.

Once released, the report is not intended to be a stagnant document. It will continue to be developed with the UIAA sharing specific real-life case studies and best practices about specific action points. The UIAA will create an outreach campaign and toolkit for member federations to adapt, translate and use specific parts of the document. Peer-to-peer workshops will also be organised during major UIAA meetings (such as the General Assembly). Here member federations, whether large or small, can provide inputs and also receive guidance, effectively benefiting from the lessons learned and experiences of others who are in a similar role.

Compared to the 2002 version of the guidelines, “climate” has become the core focus. “Social” being the newcomer as mountain protection embraces supporting the ethics, heritage and social and cultural aspects of mountaineering and mountain lives as well.

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