Climate Heritage Network, which Europa Nostra co-chairs, praises landmark cultural heritage outcomes at COP27

For the first time, the parties to the UN Climate Convention acknowledged the critical linkages between cultural heritage and climate change at the concluding session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt. In a series of ground-breaking decisions taken on 20 November, national governments meeting at COP27 included cultural heritage in statements on both loss and damage and adaptation. In a press release issued on the same day, the Climate Heritage Network – of which Europa Nostra has acted as the Regional Co-Chair for Europe since 2021 – welcomes the significant progress in mainstreaming culture and heritage in the climate agenda at COP27, but advocates for more holistic recognition of the cultural dimensions of the climate crisis.

The Climate Heritage Network hails the explicit attention paid to cultural heritage in the COP27 cover decision, the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan (SHIP). The reference is included within a historic agreement, three decades in the making, to set up a Loss and Damage Fund. Taken on African soil, this is the first step in a process to rectify the systemic injustice to billions of people, particularly in the Global South, who are the least responsible for, but are on the frontlines of, the climate crisis.

COP27 also took the important decision to include “tangible cultural heritage” as a theme of the new framework adopted for the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work programme on the global goal on adaptation. That same decision also establishes traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems as a cross-cutting consideration. The CHN stands ready to cooperate in the elaboration of the Global Goal on Adaptation framework adopted on 20 November.

The Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe) Initiative is one of several led by the COP27 Presidency. The Initiative, which counts “locally-led and culture-positive” action as one of its guiding principles, aims to support customised approaches depending on local contexts of rapidly developing cities, while recognising that culture and heritage represent both an asset to be protected from climate impacts and a resource to strengthen communities’ transformative change. 

These three decisions are a clear victory for the members and partners of the Climate Heritage Network across the globe, who made these issues a priority. COP27 saw an unprecedented engagement by cultural voices from arts and heritage.  Events in the COP27 protest zone and the Green and Blue Zones, as well as the #ArtCultureHeritageCOP27 and CultureCOP Assembly, lifted up culture in climate action and policy like never before.

The CHN also notes the paradox of COP27’s attention to loss and damage to cultural heritage, even while it failed to reach agreement on the fair and equitable phaseout of the fossil fuels that are causing this damage. Andrew Potts, CHN Coordinator, stated: “Make no mistake: mitigating the risk of loss and damage to culture and heritage through the implementation by all nations of a precautionary approach that pursues pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C, with no or limited overshoot, must be of paramount concern to everyone who cares for culture and heritage.” 

A more holistic treatment of the cultural dimensions of the climate crisis was at the heart of “The Sharm El-Sheikh Declaration on Culture-based Climate Action” proposed at COP27 by the CHN with the endorsement of Jordan. The Declaration stresses that culture, from arts to heritage, plays a fundamental role in helping people to imagine and realise low carbon, just, climate resilient futures and that culture-based climate action has a crucial role to play in meeting the objectives of the UNFCCC, including also those related to mitigation and promoting climate-resilient sustainable development. The Declaration was discussed during a landmark High Level Ministerial Dialogue on Cultural Heritage-Based Climate Solutions held on 17 November with the support of Egypt.

The Climate Heritage Network will build on this momentum, including the Ministerial Dialogue, and work throughout the year to scale-up culture-based climate action and to win more holistic recognition of the culture-dimensions of the climate crisis and the responses to it at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates in December 2023.

HRH Princess Dana Firas, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Petra National Trust President, and Chair of the CHN’s Culture at COP27 Working Group, emphasised: “Although we have made significant progress in mainstreaming culture and heritage in the climate agenda at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, our work continues. We aim to build upon the Declaration, and achieve explicit mention and recognition of cultural heritage not only as a sector that is impacted by climate change but also to include culture-based solutions as integral to successful and meaningful climate action. We aim to redouble our efforts as we work towards COP28.”

To help boost the visibility and impact of Climate Heritage Network’s commitment to a meaningful climate action, you are kindly encouraged to sign and widely disseminate the text of the Manifesto Imagining and Realising Climate Resilient Futures: The Power of Arts, Culture and Heritage to Accelerate Climate Action, which was prepared by CHN before COP27. This text remains a key reference policy document for future advocacy action by CHN and its members.

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Read full CHN press release

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