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An aerial view of flooding around Muchelney, Somerset (c) Historic England, Damian Grady
An aerial view of flooding around Muchelney, Somerset (c) Historic England, Damian Grady

Joint Heritage Sector Statement on Climate Change

5 June 2020

Climate change is one of the most significant and fastest growing threats to people and their cultural heritage worldwide. Responding to climate change requires action but that does not need to be at the expense of our cultural heritage which can help society adapt to the dual challenges of new climates and a low carbon future. 

In the context of the current COVID-19 emergency, we also recognise that the way society has changed and the way we adapt to new ways of working may critically affect our carbon footprint. This process of change may provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the long term challenge of finding new ways of working and living also posed by climate change. It is important we do not miss this opportunity.

The historic environment sector, like others, must contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so as to minimise the most harmful impacts of climate change. We also have a responsibility to take action to understand, mitigate and adapt to the effects of a changing climate, so that we can continue to pass on our heritage to future generations.

We recognise that the historic environment has its part to play in:

  • mitigating climate change by making its contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and

  • understanding and adapting to the challenges presented by a changing climate, and

  • communicating and engaging people with climate change and actions to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to changing climate.

We recognise that the scale of these challenges merits a collaborative response and we agree to work together to understand and address the impacts of climate change on the historic environment. In particular we commit to:

  • Develop action plans for each of our organisations to reach carbon net zero before 2050 with a series of interim targets to achieve that goal. To that end we will work together to develop common standards of measurement.

  • Work together to agree a set of measures aimed at understanding the effects of climate change on the historic environment, and how best to adapt to those changes, and mitigate the impacts where possible.

  • Cooperate where possible and practicable with collating and commissioning research, sharing results and lessons learned.

  • As well as carbon reduction associated with the direct impacts of our organisations, use our influence to support and promote wider climate change mitigation and adaptation, sharing our knowledge and evidence with sectors such as construction and tourism.

  • Articulate an evidence-based case for the importance of the historic environment in respect of the embodied carbon value of historic buildings, and the particular contribution that the retention and reuse of old buildings makes, together with the sustainability of traditional building materials and design.

    Adopted by:

    Architectural Heritage Fund
    Churches Conservation Trust
    English Heritage Trust
    Historic England
    Historic Houses
    National Lottery Heritage Fund
    National Trust
    The Heritage Alliance

    June 2020

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