Mobilising cultural heritage for climate action

Looking down a spiral staircase

In October 2019, Julie’s Bicycle headed to Edinburgh to attend the global launch of the Climate Heritage Network (CHN). CHN was conceived at the Climate Heritage Mobilization during the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The aim was to drive action within the arts, culture and heritage sectors towards diverse – and interconnected – issues including: decarbonisation, climate modelling, policy innovation, climate finance, training and mutual support, as well as solidarity with arts, culture and heritage offices and agencies in frontline and underserved communities.

“The Climate Heritage Network is a voluntary, mutual support network of arts, culture and heritage organisations committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement”. Climate Heritage Network

Over the course of the day we heard from a fantastic line up of speakers exploring how climate heritage intersects with: city and international policy frameworks, the impact of tourism on heritage environments, climate adaptation and mitigation, the importance of intangible heritage and knowledge systems; and the role of architecture and development.

JB Director Alison Tickell opened up the day with a digital address, responding to the question ‘Why do we need a Climate Heritage Network?’, alongside Navin Piplani (Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage), Steve Wyber (International Federation of Libraries) and Yvonne Ploum (Dutch Heritage Academy).

Watch Alison’s address below:

Over the morning, the event explored how we might unlock the potential of cultural heritage planning for climate adaptation. Speakers discussed how their local city or state municipalities have embedded climate targets within their strategies. Cathy Daly (University of Lincoln) spoke of how adaptation should be grounded in local and Indigenous knowledge, so it is place-based and includes social justice issues.

The afternoon explored sustainable cultural tourism, with case studies focused on over-tourism, maintenance of heritage sites and extreme weather events from Venice, Edinburgh, and UNESCO.

“Overtourism and climate change work together as a threat multiplier” – Adam Markham, Union of Concerned Scientists

We asked guests and speakers about the importance of cultural heritage, and about a networked response among heritage professionals to climate change. Watch their responses below:

Looking ahead, the cultural heritage sector continues to be been hugely impacted by COVID-19 and lockdown. The shock waves of the global pandemic will be felt across the world for years to come. However, this presents us with an opportunity to re-build a resilient and long-term recovery plan matching the climate and ecological crisis, with justice and equity at its heart. The pandemic, as well as justice movements like Black Lives Matter, have further exposed structural injustice across society and within all sectors. The heritage sector has a unique opportunity to respond to climate justice. Traditional ecological knowledge plays a critical role in mediating Indigenous communities’ approach to environmental changes, and their practices can help inform our adaption to climate change in a localised manner.

“We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads up high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of the earth’s beings.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, under grant agreement No 730280.