Collaboration launched on a “European Heritage Green Paper”

Europa Nostra, the European Voice of Civil Society committed to Cultural Heritage, announces a new collaboration with ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) on the key and timely topic of cultural heritage and climate change. Europa Nostra, already an active member of the Climate Heritage Network, will develop a “European Heritage Green Paper” as the policy and advocacy framework for a wide mobilisation of heritage stakeholders to contribute to the success of the European Green Deal, as part of Europe’s post-pandemic social and economic recovery. ICOMOS and its pioneering Climate Change and Heritage Working Group (CCHWG), through its Coordinator and leading expert and activist on climate heritage Andrew Potts, is the right partner for this vital mobilisation of the wider heritage community. 

The “European Heritage Green Paper” will focus on the role and potential of cultural heritage in achieving the ambitions of the European Green Deal (EGD).  It will be led by the expertise of Andrew Potts, working in close cooperation with the Europa Nostra Board and Secretariat.

“Everyone who cares for Europe’s cultural heritage should be cheering for the European Green Deal to succeed. But we can do more than cheer.  Europe’s cultural heritage embodies knowledge, pride and, yes, even carbon to help get the job done. The Green Paper project announced by Europa Nostra is a roadmap to realising that potential,” stated Andrew Potts.

“We applaud the strong commitment of EC President Ursula von der Leyen and of EC Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, to place the European Green Deal at the very heart of Europe’s social and economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU Leaders and Institutions can count on the world of culture and cultural heritage as an indispensable ally for achieving the ambitious aims that are the promise of the future European Green Deal.” stressed Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra. She also added: “Up until now, the words “art”, “culture” and “heritage” do not appear in the proposed text of the European Green Deal (EGD). This must change since cultural heritage offers an immense potential to drive climate action, influence consumption patterns and support a just and inclusive transition towards a healthier, greener and fairer society and economy. The purpose of our “European Heritage Green Paper” is to correlate cultural heritage to all or most of the components of the European Green Deal, using policy frameworks already developed by our  ICOMOS colleagues.

The European Green Deal and Cultural Heritage are interconnected and one is essential to each others’ success. In fact, the EGD aims at bringing the temperature goal at 1.5°C, which is a limit to global warming crucial to safeguard many heritage sites and avoid, for instance, their deterioration or the loss of biodiversity in natural sites.  Studies have shown that half of Europe’s alpine glaciers could disappear by the end of the 21st century due to temperature rise, while soil deterioration in southern Europe under warmer and drier conditions will lead to desertification, affecting also archaeological and other heritage sites. 

Many dimensions of the EGD, such as building renovation, circular economy or  ‘farm to fork’ and biodiversity, are closely linked to cultural aspects. Cultural heritage has the power to connect people to places, fostering a sense of belonging and community. It is crucial to develop a connection with our immediate environment, but also with our planet as a whole. Our heritage inspires creativity and innovation, which can be and are already being mobilised to tackle key societal questions, such as climate change. Finally, cultural heritage and traditional knowledge can boost communities’ resilience, thus contributing to a more sustainable future. 

Europa Nostra is keen to start this collaboration with ICOMOS, a Paris-based international non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of the world’s monuments and sites. The work of the two organisations is interconnected, not only when it comes to cultural heritage, but also when addressing the specific issue of heritage and climate emergency. 

ICOMOS is active in over 100 countries and operates 28 different international scientific committees. Already in 2017 ICOMOS declared that climate change has become one of the most significant and fastest-growing threats to people and their heritage worldwide. In response to this threat, in 2019 the ICOMOS Climate Change and Heritage Working Group issued its report ‘The Future of Our Pasts: Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action,’ which scopes the role of cultural heritage in achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and catalogues the threats climate change poses to diverse types of heritage. ICOMOS also serves as the Secretariat for the Climate Heritage Network, a network made up of 150 organisations including Europa Nostra dedicated to mobilising arts, culture and heritage for climate action. 

The “European Heritage Green Paper” will capitalise and build on this enormous pool of experience and expertise. It will also collect examples of relevant existing European projects and initiatives on the topic of climate and heritage, working in collaboration with other members of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3 and with other European and international partners, and in particular with the European Investment Bank Institute.   

Europa Nostra has also conveyed to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission who is responsible for the European Green Deal the keen readiness of the wider heritage community to collaborate with him and his team on this important topic. 

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