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ENVIRONMENT

Venice dodges Unesco ‘endangered’ listing after placing new limit on cruise ships

Venice has avoided being named a world heritage site in danger by UNESCO on Thursday after Italy moved to ban large cruise ships from sailing into the city centre.

Venice dodges Unesco 'endangered' listing after placing new limit on cruise ships
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The city has been on UNESCO’s heritage list since 1987, but the UN body warned last month of the need for “more sustainable tourism management”, recommending that Venice be added to its endangered list.

The World Heritage Committee meeting in Fuzhou, China, cited Italy’s recent ban and gave Italian authorities until next December to report back on efforts to preserve the city’s ecosystem and heritage.

ANALYSIS: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from the lagoon at last?

Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini welcomed the decision, but said “attention on Venice must remain high”, underlying the need to identify a “sustainable development path”.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi expressed “great satisfaction” at the decision.

For years, campaigners have been calling for an end to cruise ships sailing past St Mark’s Square.

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

They say the giant floating hotels cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

But many Venice residents, environmental campaigners and tourism experts have warned that the move would not be as beneficial as it appeared – and could in fact make existing problems worse .

“Yes, it is true that from August 1st cruise ships will no longer pass in front of Saint Mark’s,” stated Venezia Autentica, a group promoting sustainable tourism businesses in Venice.

“However, cruise ships will still enter the Venetian lagoon through the “back door”, hidden from plain sight,” it says. 

“They will reach Venice through an existing channel that will be further enlarged to accommodate those ships and will have devastating repercussions on the local environment.”

READ ALSO: ‘The myth of Venice’: How the Venetian brand helps the city survive

According to the government’s ban, the largest ships will be banned from entering the Basin of San Marco, the Canal of San Marco and the Giudecca Canal as of August 1st.

They will be diverted to the industrial port of Marghera, whereas smaller cruise ships, holding about 200 passengers, can continue to reach the heart of the city.

Unesco’s Director General described the move as “very good news and an important step that significantly contributes to the safeguarding of this unique heritage site.”

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ALMEDALEN 2022

Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English. 

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