Featured, Mountain Protection, UIAA

The year 2022 was declared the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development (IYM2022) by the UN General Assembly. This was twenty years on from the first UN declared International Year of the Mountains, in 2002. On that occasion the UIAA released its seminal paper, Environmental Objectives and Guidelines.

Twenty years on, and as a contribution from the UIAA to the observance of the IYM2022, the UIAA GA endorsed kickstarting the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission (MPC) project to update these important guidelines. Developments over the past twenty years need to be reflected in the document, for example the greater access to data and information on the threat of climate change and its impact on climbing and mountaineering and, conversely, reflecting on mountaineering’s own impact on the mountain environment through waste, biodiversity loss, and carbon footprint. The intention is for the new paper to be released on International Mountain Day, 11 December, in 2023.

The original document opened with a message which remains pertinent today:

If mountaineers adopt the highest standards of environmental care they will protect the mountain environment, bring benefit to mountain people and help to secure the freedom to practice mountaineering in years to come. Politicians, policy makers, local communities and commercial interests all influence what happens to the mountains and mountaineers must engage in dialogue with the different interests. By promoting these objectives and guidelines we can demonstrate a responsible attitude towards our own activities and stake.

Throughout the past twenty years, the UIAA, and led by its Mountain Protection Commission, has been at the forefront of discussions and policy on sustainability in the mountains. On the occasion of this year’s IMD alone, the UIAA will publish a review of its first ever Climate Change Summit (held during its recent 2022 General Assembly), information on its signing of a commitment letter as part of the Sport4Climate action framework and continued support for projects showcased as part of its flagship sustainability project, the Mountain Protection Award. Furthermore, the UIAA has also contributed to the IYM2022 policy brief dedicated to waste issues in mountain regions.

In terms of the update to the Environmental Guidelines and Objectives, the following considerations have been taken:

  • The existing document will serve as a basis for the update.
  • A member survey conducted jointly by the UIAA MPC and IFMGA Environmental Committee on needs and practices was distributed in 2018; findings presented in 2019 will be given consideration and eventual integration.
  • Content will be considering key pillars of action that address the “triple planetary crisis” as defined by UN Environment Programme: climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. This will be complemented with a collection of best practice case studies.
  • The content will be structured so that recommendations and actions take account of diverse audiences in their various key roles within our mountaineering community, such as the UIAA at the organisational level, its member federations, and individual climbers.
  • Deliverables are to be defined but would likely be in the form of a digital document/brochure; “peer-to-peer” workshops for member for member federations who have requested assistance from the MPC in translating these principles into more specific operational guidelines for implementation; and possibly a dedicated communications and outreach campaign that includes a video release in the style of the recent projects from the UIAA Safety and Medical Commissions.

UIAA Mountain Protection Commission President Dr Carolina Adler:

The project has been an idea and priority for some time, and with the proclamation by the UN General Assembly of 2022 as the International Year for Sustainable Mountain Development, the impetus and opportunity to kickstart this process are now here. I am grateful to the UIAA leadership and member federations for their support, and to our delegates in the MPC and external partners for their commitment and expertise. As MPC, we look forward to making a fruitful contribution that we hope will encourage and empower our members and broader mountaineering community to live by mountain protection values and lead by example as we put them into practice”.

Benefit for UIAA Members on the updating of the Environmental Guidelines and Objectives:

  • A relevant and up-to-date framework on principles that support mountain protection.
  • Implementation support for UIAA member federations through facilitation and guidance from the MPC.
  • Using a video and other communication outreach materials addressing key UIAA sustainability priorities in the mountains (with option to subtitle in different languages).

In terms of the UIAA Strategic Plan 2021-2024, the project addresses the following goals:

(#1) provide guidance on critical and emerging mountaineering issues and;
(#2) encouraging safe, environmentally and culturally responsible open access for climbing and mountaineering;
(#3) assisting and supporting national federations and their members.
(#8) reinforce the role of the UIAA as a recognized advocate and key player at international level and among members concerning environmental issues in the mountains
(#11) be at the service of UIAA member associations
(#16) increase the added value and relevance of the UIAA for its members, partners and sponsors

The UIAA will continue to provide updates on the project ahead of its scheduled publication on 11 December, 2023.