Future of Our Pasts: Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action
Cultural heritage offers immense and virtually untapped potential to drive climate action and support ethical and equitable transitions by communities towards low carbon, climate resilient development pathways. Realizing that potential, however, requires both better recognition of the cultural dimensions of climate change and adjusting the aims and methodologies of heritage practice. Achieving the Paris Agreement’s ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said. Better addressing the ways in which cultural heritage is both impacted by climate change and a source of resilience for communities would increase the ambition for --- and effectiveness of --transformative change. The report highlights a number of ways in which the core considerations of cultural heritage intersect with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, including heightening ambition to address climate change, mitigating greenhouse gases, enhancing adaptive capacity, and planning for loss and damage. At the same time, climate change is already impacting communities and heritage globally, and these trends are rapidly worsening. The report provides a framework for systematically cataloguing the impacts of climate change drivers on six main categories of cultural heritage, in order to aid in evaluating and managing both climate risks to cultural heritage and the positive role it can play as a source of resilience. Given the nature and scale of climate impacts, the report concludes that how we conceive of heritage and how we manage it will require updating. New, multi-disciplinary approaches will be required in areas such as heritage documentation, disaster risk reduction, vulnerability assessment, conservation, education and training as well as in the ways heritage sites are presented to visitors.