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Thu, 21 Mar 2024

UNESCO recognition for JCU Professor

Professor Scott Heron surveys the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage property in South Africa, during the Climate Vulnerability Index workshop. PICTURE: Jon Day
Professor Scott Heron surveys the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage property in South Africa, during the Climate Vulnerability Index workshop. PICTURE: Jon Day

A James Cook University Professor will lead efforts to identify natural and cultural heritage sites vulnerable to climate change after being chosen by UNESCO for a key role.

Professor of Physical Sciences Scott Heron has been appointed as the UNESCO Chair on Climate Change Vulnerability of Natural and Cultural Heritage.

"Climate change is already impacting natural and cultural heritage around the world and future projections, based on current global policies, indicate these impacts will only accelerate,” Prof Heron said.

"As the UNESCO Chair, I'll be working with heritage and climate experts around the world, as well as working with and learning from the network of UNESCO Chairholders.”

Co-developed by Prof Heron, the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) is used to assess climate vulnerability of World Heritage sites and other areas of significance, engage local community members in determining impacts, and provide opportunities for identifying adaptation and impact mitigation within the community.

"Through applying the CVI and collaborating with partners from across the world, I've gained understanding in a wide spectrum of heritage typologies and their vulnerability to climate change, which will be continued through the UNESCO Chair role,” Prof Heron said.

“The scope of work we have put forward for the next four years is to grow the capability of heritage areas in their understanding of future impacts on these sites.”

The CVI has been successfully applied in terrestrial and marine UNESCO World Heritage areas ranging from 1.2 hectares to 3.6 million hectares. Assessments of natural and cultural properties have been undertaken in urban and rural locations, including within several countries across Africa and Europe.

“Beyond World Heritage locations, there are many other national and state heritage locations, as well as Indigenous areas of significance that need better understanding of their vulnerability to climate change,” Prof Heron said.

“It’s really about fostering those partnerships necessary to identify and implement strategic actions.”

JCU College of Science and Engineering Dean Professor Ron White said Prof Heron’s appointment was an “inspired choice”.

“Prof Heron’s extensive work in assessing climate vulnerability of World Heritage properties will be of immense benefit to UNESCO in its mandate to preserve our natural and cultural heritage in the face of climate change,” he said.

“Prof Heron’s leadership will be indispensable for communities wanting to respond to climate threats to their heritage.”

JCU Vice Chancellor Professor Simon Biggs said Prof Heron has enhanced the University’s reputation for research and academic excellence.

“Prof Heron’s appointment is reflective of the extensive knowledge and experience base we have at JCU, where our researchers are at the cutting edge of their respective fields,” Prof Biggs said.

“I have no doubt Prof Heron, his colleagues and collaborators will play a vital role in helping to preserve some of the world’s important heritage, so it can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Prof Heron intends to present an update on the work at the next UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in New Delhi in July.


Media enquiries: michael.serenc@jcu.edu.au