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Published on : Saturday, March 19, 2016
The Abertis Foundation played a central role in the 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves, which this year took place in Peru’s capital Lima. The Foundation’s delegation included its President, Salvador Alemany, who was asked by the International Organisation to present the Castellet UNESCO Centre to the world.
The President of Abertis and of the Abertis Foundation also took part in the closing ceremony alongside Manuel Pulgar-Vidal Otálora, Peru’s Environment Minister; Michael Worbs, Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO; Flavia Schlegel, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences; and Sergio Guevara, President of the International Coordinating Council of the MAB programme.
In his speech, Salvador Alemany expressed his conviction that “the protection of our ecosystem must involve the conscious and combined efforts of the public and private sector, even surpassing legal requirements, which, although essential, are completely insufficient unless accompanied by the sincere commitment of all stakeholders. A commitment borne of a conviction that protecting the environment is a duty that we all share.”
He also underlined the importance of the Castellet UNESCO Centre, stating: “Aside from its scientific importance, the Centre stands out as the first example of a partnership between an international organisation such as UNESCO with a private company such as Abertis. The outcome is an innovative and imaginative initiative that we are putting at your service in the hope that it will serve as inspiration for the establishment of other similar centres in partnership with UNESCO.”
During his visit to Peru, Salvador Alemany, President of Abertis and of the Abertis Foundation, met the country’s prime minister, Pedro Cateriano. Although Abertis is not present in the Latin America country, the company’s meeting with the Peruvian government illustrates the interest of both parties in exploring the possibility of developing necessary infrastructure operations in light of Peru’s strong economic performance.
The Abertis Foundation, a special guest at the Congress
The Lima World Congress took place over four days and included conferences and meetings on issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Issues such as education for sustainable development, the economic viability of nature conservation systems, human migrations and the protection and sustainable use of natural resources were addressed.
This year UNESCO invited the Abertis Foundation to organise one of the seven parallel sessions that formed part of the official programme of the Congress, where it presented the UNESCO Centre for Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves in Castellet Castle, the headquarters of the Abertis Foundation, the first and only Category 2 centre resulting from a public-private partnership.
Category 2 centres are centres and institutes backed by UNESCO that enjoy a special status in the United Nations system: they are created and financed by member states and their main aim is to achieve the goals of the UNESCO MAB (Man and Biosphere) programme.
The MAB programme is a scientific, interdisciplinary and intergovernmental initiative aimed at establishing scientific foundations for improving long-term human-environment relations. It uses its Network of Biosphere Reserves as vehicles for knowledge sharing, research and monitoring, education and training, and participatory decision-making.
The parallel session, which took place on Wednesday 16 March, afforded an opportunity to present the Castellet International Centre as a pioneering experiment in collaboration between UNESCO and a private body, the Abertis Foundation. The programme of activities that have taken place in the centre and the agenda for the coming months were also announced. The Centre’s contribution to and synergies created with the MAB programme were also analysed. One example is the XVI Meeting of the MAB Committees Network and Biosphere Reserves of Latin America, which took place in Castellet Castle last October.
The session, which was hosted by Martí Boada, a Professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and scientific coordinator of the Castellet UNESCO Centre, was attended by Montserrat Fernández, deputy director of the Autonomous Authority for National Parks in Spain (OAPN); Miguel Clüsener-Godt, Chief of Section: MAB Research and Policy at UNESCO; Pierre Doumet, President of the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve in Lebanon; and members of the Abertis Foundation delegation. The session was closed by Ernesto de Zulueta Habsburgo-Lorena, Spain’s ambassador in Lima.
The UNESCO International Centre
Castellet Castle, headquarters of the Abertis Foundation, was designated as the UNESCO International Centre on Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves in 2013 and opened in April 2014 as the first public-private initiative in UNESCO’s network of Biosphere Reserves.
The International UNESCO Centre has since become established as a Category 2 centre for the promotion of culture and environmental awareness and is a standard bearer for the sustainable management of cultural heritage.
The Centre is the outcome of a protocol signed by the Autonomous Authority for National Parks (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment) and the Abertis Foundation, and enjoys the academic support of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB).
Castellet Castle is in a prime location at the heart of the Foix nature reserve in the Alt Penedès (Barcelona). Refurbished by Abertis in 2001 in accordance with sustainable construction criteria, the castle stands in an archaeological site dating back to the 4th Century B.C., an era from which fragments of ceramics have been documented.
In 2015 the building was awarded Biosphere Responsible Tourism certification in the “Biosphere Discover” category of this international programme which recognises tourism establishments with a sustainable business management model. This accolade is granted by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI) with the backing of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the sole global accreditation body for sustainable tourism under the umbrella of the United Nations.
Abertis and the environment
Abertis and the Abertis Foundation are active in four key spheres (road safety, culture, social action and the environment), and work to mitigate the impact of the Abertis Group’s activity in the countries in which it operates.
In the environmental sphere, activities are largely carried out via the UNESCO International Centre on Mediterranean Biosphere Reserve, which is based at the headquarters of the Abertis Foundation.
Furthermore, Abertis’ environmental policies are centred on the progressive establishment of a system of environmental management in the group’s areas of activity, in accordance with the requirements of ISO 14001, with the objective of minimising the environmental impact of the group’s operations.
Abertis is thus working to reduce the carbon footprint of its economic activity (Carbon Disclosure Project), optimise its waste management and conserve the biodiversity of the natural environments where infrastructure managed by the group is located.