Europa Nostra contributes to Conference on Climate Change and Cultural Heritage in Athens

Europa Nostra actively contributed to the International Conference “Climate Change impacts on cultural heritage: facing the challenge” organised in Athens on 21-22 June 2019. The Conference was organised by four Ministries of the Greek Government, namely Ministries in charge of Foreign Affairs; Education, Research and Religious affairs; Culture and Sports as well as Environment and Energy. The overall objective of the Conference was to reinforce the efforts undertaken by the International Community to address the damaging impacts of climate change on cultural heritage. Over two days more than 25 different presentations from Greece and from abroad were given covering a wide variety of subjects (abstracts can be found here).

Europa Nostra’s President, Maestro Plácido Domingo is one of the three members of the Honorary Committee of this international Conference. In his special message to participants and organisers, delivered on June 21, Domingo welcomed the timely and pressing topic of discussion, which is of huge importance to the mission and action of Europa Nostra and its members.

In his written message which was read at the opening session of the Conference, Europa Nostra’s President called for urgent action to mitigate the effects of climate change on Europe’s cultural heritage, drawing attention to specific sites like Venice and the Greek ancient site of Delos, both at imminent risk due to weather and climate-related hazards.

He also pointed out that cultural heritage offers opportunities to face the current environmental challenges, as it bears traditional knowledge that can help us build resilience to change. ‘’Our cultural heritage is an immense source of information – a sort of ‘Observatory’ that can offer valuable insights on climate patterns throughout time. We shall capitalise on this enormous potential – we must preserve our past in order to protect our future,” he added.

In a special message for the conference, the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. António Guterres stated: “Climate change is a threat to our future, but also to our heritage, natural and cultural. […] As we strive for the transformation we need, it is time to include Cultural Heritage in our discussions of Climate Change’’. Following the Athens meeting the United Nations will organise in New York, 21-23 September the Climate Action Summit and it is our hope that the important topic of the relationship between Climate Change and Cultural Heritage will get its deserved place at this high-level gathering in New York.

Dimitrios Pandermalis, director of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, called attention to the fact that environmental threats to monuments were accelerating and warned: “The scale of things is different and the destruction can be irreversible.”

Europa Nostra’s Board member, Prof. Paolo Vitti is on the Advisory Board of the Conference. In addition, among the participants of the Conference were Eleni Maistrou and by Miltiades Lazoglou from Elliniki Etairia, Europa Nostra’s country representation in Greece, and Europa Nostra’s Communication Adviser, Wolter Braamhorst.

At the end of the two-day conference a concluding document was unanimously adopted.

Europa Nostra shares the concerns of so many individuals and organisations that call for urgent action against the current climate and ecological crisis and is committed to actively contribute to the follow-up of this important Conference. Moreover, on the occasion of the European Cultural Heritage Summit in Paris at the end of October, Europa Nostra will issue a position paper on cultural heritage and climate change, which will serve as an advocacy tool to influence national, European and international policies on this pressing matter of concern.

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