Isle of Wight Celebrates UNESCO Biosphere Announcement.

Today (19th June 2019) marks a special day for the Isle of Wight, as the announcement of the Island becoming the UK’s latest UNESCO Biosphere Reserve was made by the United Nations Man and Biosphere Co-ordinating Council.

The Isle of Wight is only the third place in England and just the 6th area in the UK to be awarded such a status.

Put simply, becoming an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve means the Isle of Wight is now recognised as one of the best places in the world to explore the sustainable way people interact with their natural environment.

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are unique areas of environmental significance in which communities strive to work hand in hand, innovatively and responsibly to protect and support the local environment and the world we all live in.

This year’s Isle of Wight Mardi Gras Parade in Ryde will be in celebration of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with over 30 schools, community organisations and off-Island carnival companies joining the New Carnival Company at 3pm on 29 June.

The Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership worked on the application for UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status (on behalf of the British Government) for 3 years to ensuring the Island is recognised for the way people and nature coexist.

Richard Grogan, Lead Officer for the IW AONB said:

‘This is global recognition that our Island is not only an area of outstanding natural beauty, but that Islanders have played their part in looking after it. In spite of the modern day pressures brought about by the progress of human beings, nature continues to thrive here. ‘

Richard hopes that the process of development and nature working together will continue for coming generations:

‘The AONB partnership will continue to encourage all Islanders to take care of the environment for our children and grandchildren, as our parents and grandparents did in their turn.’

Jonathan Bacon, Chair of the IW AONB, welcomed the announcement and the potential opportunities it provides:

‘Achieving Biosphere status is like receiving the biggest gold star on offer anywhere in the world for people’s relationship with the world around them. It shows that on the Island we are getting closer to finding the right balance between meeting our needs and our children’s needs, while including the needs of wildlife. It is now up to us to maintain all the good things we have here and see how we can use the accreditation to support and develop local, national and international recognition of what the Isle of Wight has to offer, so as to boost our visitor economy and encourage appropriate sustainable development. All in all the accreditation gives us a fantastic opportunity, both to continue the work on the Island that has now been recognised by UNESCO as well as taking steps to further protect and enhance the place where we live.’

Bob Seely, Isle of Wight MP said:

‘I am delighted that the Isle of Wight has achieved this internationally-recognised status. Gaining this award is part of the agenda to appreciate and celebrate our landscape, for our quality of life and our aspirations as an island.

We need to celebrate our unique and beautiful landscape and this award is recognition of the way we do that. We must continue to respect our landscape and preserve it for future generations.

I congratulate all those involved in securing this status for the Island.’

Minister and Ambassador of United Kingdom of Great-Britain and Northern Ireland to UNESCO, Matthew Lodge, said:

‘Congratulations to the Isle of Wight for becoming a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

As an international agency of the United Nations, UNESCO seeks to build peace and a sustainable future for everyone through education, science and culture. If we are to solve the challenges we face together as a planet, we must all learn to live and work in harmony with nature — and this lies at the heart of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves – a global network of 686 reserves in 122 countries. The Biosphere reserves play a crucial role in solving one of sustainable development’s most significant issues — the disconnection between people and nature. They reconnect people and the local economy with their environment to improve health and wellbeing; they protect and promote the area’s biodiversity, land and natural beauty; they support environmental education and awareness; and, they increase community engagement through a range of projects and initiatives. 

The Isle of Wight community works hand-in-hand to conserve and enhance the island’s rich range of cultural heritage and natural biodiversity by bringing together many partners in their pursuit of a more culturally and ecologically sustainable future. By joining this network, the Isle of Wight will be able to learn from and cooperate with communities all over the world who are pursuing innovative initiatives of looking after our precious environment for future generations.

I am particularly pleased that this decision has been made during the Year of Green Action, a year-long project initiated by the UK Government to get more people from all backgrounds to connect with nature, and to show how we can all take affirmative action to improve our environment.’

Dave Stewart, Isle of Wight Council Leader said:

‘In the Isle of Wight Council we know that the unique landscapes, coast and wildlife of the Island bring people here not just as tourists, but also to live, work and do business. We believe that the key to economic success is living and working sustainably on our island, and we are very proud of the new Biosphere Reserve status and recognition given today by UNESCO.’

Will Myles, Managing Director at Visit Isle of Wight said:

‘This award is incredible, and a testament to the hard work that the Isle of Wight AONB Partnership have done – and continue to do.

The Island’s hundreds of thousands of visitors recognise its unique qualities and to achieve the status of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is something that will most certainly have a positive impact on our visitor economy.’