“The Last Glaciers” film issues a global wake-up call for climate action on World Water Day
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“The Last Glaciers” film issues a global wake-up call for climate action on World Water Day

New documentary with UNEP Mountain Advocate Malcolm Wood shows the drastic loss of ice worldwide

Geneva, Switzerland, 22 March 2022 – UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Mountain Advocate Malcolm Wood features in a unique new documentary released today, shining a spotlight on how the world’s water towers are being lost due to climate change.

The film, released today in North America and to be screened in IMAX cinemas worldwide, is produced by award-winning filmmaker Craig Leeson (“A Plastic Ocean”) and UNEP Mountain Advocate Malcolm Wood. It takes the audience on a breathtaking journey to the remaining glaciers on our planet, with unique filming angles and techniques.

Launched on World Water Day, the immersive cinematographic experience showcases the causes and effects of climate change in mountains – our Earth’s disappearing and precious water reservoirs. Witnessed first-hand by adventurous extreme sports athletes using para-alpinism, leading scientific experts, and affected mountain communities, the fragility of our natural world is brought to screen.

“Rising temperatures and melting glaciers influence water availability and quality for millions of people, increase the risk of natural hazards such as snow avalanches, floods or landslides, and force plants and animals to adapt or mitigate. A large proportion of mountain species, including iconic ones, are expected to face an increased risk of extinction as a result,” says UNEP’s Europe Office Director Bruno Pozzi, who features in the documentary.

Filmed in 12 countries over four years, the inspiring 40-minute film is a global call to action to protect and restore mountain ecosystems, our global water towers. “Mountains and glaciers aren’t just simply an amazing place to have fun, they are a life support system, providing freshwater for everyday life to half of humanity. We must do our best to save these beautiful places for us and future generations,” says Malcolm Wood, UNEP Mountain Advocate and producer of The Last Glaciers.

According to the latest IPCC report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (2022), which includes a cross-chapter paper on mountains, human-induced climate change already has led to widespread losses and damages to nature and people in most ecosystems of our planet. Risks in mountain regions are expected to further increase over the course of this century with accelerated climate change negatively affecting biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. Many mountain regions have already witnessed radical glacier loss with many low elevation and small glaciers around the world – including all of Africa’s remaining glaciers – at risk of disappearing within this century.

The melting and drastic retreat of glaciers also has severe effects on the environment and people further afield. Glacial melt leads to reduced water supply for towns, and especially farmers, as less water is available for hot dry seasons. For example, the livelihoods of millions of people in Peru, including in its capital, Lima, are at risk with Andean glaciers melting due to decreased availability of clean water. Another risk is the so-called ‘glacier lake outburst flood.’ In Peru for instance, the ice loss in the Huascaran National Park threatens the inhabitants of Huaraz with potential lake burst and ensuing flood.

Combined with the drastic ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica, glacial melt in mountains around the world also contributes to rising sea levels. The latest IPCC report (2022) estimates that, by the end of this century, the average sea level could be one meter higher than in pre-industrial times, posing a particular threat to small islands and low-lying coastal areas.

UNEP aims to tackle the climate crisis and – in line with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of mountain ecosystems, and support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 15. Under the Adaptation at Altitude programme, financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), partners, including UNEP have identified innovative mountain adaptation solutions around the globe and bring together policy representatives from mountainous countries to share plans for improving the resilience of people upstream and downstream.

In support of the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development 2022, more global efforts are needed to build resilient mountain communities and foster sustainable mountain development. With global warming above 1.5 °C, the need for adaptation in mountains becomes a key priority (IPCC 2022). Besides the Adaptation Gap Report 2021, which urgently calls for climate adaptation planning, finance and implementation to be stepped up, UNEP will next month publish two new booklets on concrete and innovative mountain adaptation solutions in East Africa and the South Caucasus, as part of the Adaptation at Altitude programme. UNEP furthermore closely supports mountain countries such as Georgia, Nepal, Pakistan and Rwanda in formulating National Adaptation Plans, including with the recent Guidelines for Integrating Ecosystem-based Adaptation into National Adaptation Plans.


About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations

About UNEP Mountain Advocate Malcolm Wood

Malcolm Wood is an adventure athlete, environmental filmmaker and well-known social entrepreneur. He has been involved  in a number of successful film projects, such as A Plastic Ocean. As a UNEP Mountain Advocate, he is one of our important ambassadors – together with Kenyan skier Sabrina Simader, Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja, and others – helping to draw attention to emerging environmental issues in mountains, including climate change, waste and biodiversity loss.

For more information, please contact:

Alejandro Laguna, Information Officer, UNEP Europe Office, +41 766910848
Annette Leopold, Communication Consultant, UNEP Vienna Programme Office

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