How to protect cultural heritage from climate change

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Within the context of European Heritage Days 2022 with the theme of sustainability, the EU commission released a report ” Strengthening Cultural Heritage Resilience for Climate Change” on the protection of heritage from climate change.  A team of experts from 28 countries examined the state of application of climate action to cultural heritage and present 83 best practice examples.

The report offers 10 recommendations:

  1. “The European Commission must emphasise the importance of cultural heritage in times of climate crisis and propose new actions at the European level to adapt cultural heritage and enable it to mitigate climate change in a new Commission communication, for instance in an update to the new European agenda for culture.
  2. The European Commission must ensure structured cooperation at all levels of governance between EU directorates-general responsible for climate change and/or cultural heritage.
  3. The European Commission must develop and regularly update, together with the Member States and associated countries, a European climate change cultural heritage risk assessment map by 2025.
  4. The European Commission must initiate a full review of the economic costs of climate change adaptation/mitigation solely for cultural and natural heritage.
  5. The European Commission must establish a common European platform for exchange, discussion, expertise and knowledge sharing about the impacts of climate change on cultural heritage and its contributions to the fight against climate change, providing a central entry point for cultural heritage in times of climate change.
  6. National-/regional-level and local-level administrations must include cultural heritage and the cultural domain in all actions and plans addressing mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Actions must be undertaken to fully integrate culture and cultural heritage issues into environmental sustainability and climate policymaking both at national/regional/local levels and international levels.
  7. National and regional authorities must build capacity and multidisciplinary expertise to ensure the safeguarding of cultural heritage against climate change through education, training and upskilling at all levels. The European Commission, through relevant EU-funded programmes, could support these initiatives.
  8. National authorities must recognise the importance of research as the indispensable driver to advancing the cultural heritage sector. In addition to EU-funded programmes, governments must initiate research programmes at the national level to enhance knowledge sharing and cooperation between cultural heritage experts and climate science to create data collection mechanisms, collect and analyse data, and develop tools, infrastructures, best practices and strategies.
  9. National-/regional-level and local-level governments and institutions must encourage investment and immediately incentivise the safeguarding of cultural heritage against climate change through monetary and fiscal policies.
  10. The ministries and administrations of the Member States and associated countries and local and regional authorities must ensure cooperation at all levels of governance and in relevant policy domains, especially in planning bodies, between those responsible for climate change actions and those responsible for cultural heritage.”

Cultural heritage is paramount for cohesion and peace in society, and climate change is an immediate threat calling for more actions at the local, national and international levels. At present, there is a need for further research on the effects of global warming and cultural heritage as well as the development of relevant actions. Education and training from early childhood are imperative for combating climate change and raising awareness within the community and the heritage sector.

Our take

The report is thorough presenting research into the topic, threats to cultural heritage from climate change and good practice examples for tangible, intangible and underwater heritage. Cultural heritage poses a solution for climate change through traditional knowledge preservation and their nature.  “Strengthening Cultural Heritage Resilience for Climate Change” is a must-read for a better understanding of the effects of climate change and actions pertaining to cultural heritage.

I want to learn more:

Strengthening cultural heritage resilience for climate change (also attached)

Ten recommendations on how to better protect cultural heritage from the impact of climate change 

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