THE INTO VICTORIA DECLARATION WARNS ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE FOR CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY
At their last conference held in Victoria (Canada), from 12-16 October 2011, members of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO), adopted the Victoria Declaration on the Implications for Cultural Sustainability of Climate Change. This important declaration seeks to raise the awareness of the world leaders from 193 countries who will assemble in Durban, South Africa, for the 17th Climate Change Conference (28 November – 9 December) that what is at stake is not just economic, social and political, but also that cultural heritage is in jeopardy and social sustainability is at risk. The Europa Nostra Council is expected to endorse the Victoria Declaration and its next meeting on 10 December in Berlin.
INTO occupies a unique role within the global heritage movement, bringing together natural and cultural heritage organisations from around the world, representing a constituency of well in excess of six million individual members across some forty-five countries, and growing. Through alliances and affiliations with other organisations sharing a common concern for the global environment and cultural heritage, including Europa Nostra, the INTO voice speaks for tens of millions of people globally.
In Victoria, INTO returned to the issue of climate change which it had last addressed in Dublin two years ago, in preparation for the presence of a delegation from INTO at the Durban Conference. Back in 2009, Europa Nostra had already strongly endorsed the Dublin Declaration on Climate Change. At the Conference in Victoria, Europa Nostra was represented by its Board member, Martin Scicluna from Malta, who is also a member of INTO’s Executive Committee.
The discussions in Victoria focused on the aspect of climate change which, it was felt, had hitherto been ignored by world leaders. This was the essential need for a necessary reform of United Nations procedures to incorporate far more effectively into the language of climate change a firm recognition that the integrity and survival of the cultures of all the peoples and nations around the world are threatened by climate change.
The reality is that climate change will affect social sustainability. It will fundamentally jeopardise cultural practices, in our case practices which are uniquely European. It will undermine connectivity with place – what makes the various different countries and regions of Europe different and what makes Europe what it is. If the integrity of the world’s cultures is destabilised then social dislocation and social instability will follow.
In the words of the Victoria Declaration: “For the sake of future generations, we must collectively tackle climate change not just because of changes in the physical environment, not just for reasons of sustaining human health and welfare, but to recognise that the core strength and connectivity of all the socio-economic systems of human-kind, lies in maintaining cultural sustainability”.