ICOMOS Passes Resolution on Climate Change and Cultural Heritage

Meeting in Delhi this week, the ICOMOS 19th General Assembly and Scientific Symposium has adopted a resolution recognizing the significant and growing threat that climate change poses to global heritage, as well as the critical role that heritage can play as a source of information and strategies to adapt to and address climate change. The resolution was proposed by a group of International Scientific Committees, National Committees, and individual members, and noted ICOMOS’ prior engagement on climate change and related issues. The resolution states its explicit support for the Paris Agreement and encourages members to support its implementation, particularly through cultural heritage and landscape-based solutions. Finally, the resolution welcomes the decision to establish an ICOMOS Working Group on Climate Change and Cultural Heritage and requests the board prioritize and develop ICOMOS’ strategies and responses to climate change.
The text of the resolution is copied below, and a link is available for download.

 
The 19th general Assembly of ICOMOS,
ACKNOWLEDGING that climate change has become one of the most significant and fastest growing
threats to people and their heritage worldwide; that unequivocal scientific evidence shows that
unprecedented concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG), driven by human activities including
burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, are contributing to climate changes including warming of the
oceans and atmosphere, rising sea levels and diminished snow and ice; that such trends are predicted
to worsen; and that the adverse impacts are greatly increasing.
RECALLING the long engagement by ICOMOS on climate change and cultural heritage including the
resolution of the 15th General Assembly (Xi’an 2005); as well as the important work done by the
Scientific Council (SC) and Scientific Committees (ISCs) including the ISCs on Energy and Sustainability
(ISCES); Earthen Architectural Heritage (ISCEAH), Polar Heritage (IPHC), and on Risk Preparedness
(ICORP), as well as by the Advisory Committee (AC) and numerous National Committees (NCs).
RECALLING the expert meeting held in the host city for this 19GA — Delhi, India — on 22 May 2007
entitled “The International Workshop on the Impact of Climate Change on Cultural Heritage,” which
recognised the role of cultural heritage solutions to climate change adaptation and heritage’s potential
to contribute to the global climate change regulatory regime.
RECALLING the SC Symposium entitled “Cultural Heritage and Global Climate Change” held in Pretoria,
South Africa on 7 October 2007, which underlined that loss and destruction is as much a dimension of
climate change and heritage as preservation; noted the “serious local social impact” from such loss;
and called for communities to take part equitably in establishing related priorities.
RECALLING the ‘Strategy to Assist States Parties to the Convention to Implement Appropriate
Management Responses’ endorsed by the WH Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius 2006) and the
‘Policy Document on the Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Properties’ (Policy Document)
adopted by the General Assembly of States Parties of the WH Convention at its 16th session (UNESCO
2007) and the positive role of ICOMOS in the formulation of both;
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the enabling role of cultural heritage in the achievement of the Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 including SDG 7 (Affordable
and Clean Energy) and SDG 13 (Climate Action); the explicit roles identified for heritage in SDG Target
11.4, as well as in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UN New Urban Agenda;
and the ongoing work of the ICOMOS Sustainability Task Force in connection with the SDGs.
NOTING the adoption in 2015 of the Paris Agreement during the 21st session of the Conference of
Parties (COP21)(Paris 2015) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as
the decision taken at the 41st session of the World Heritage (WH) Committee (Krakow 2017) stating
that “growing evidence of climate impacts across World Heritage properties confirm that urgent and
rapid action to reduce global warming is essential and the highest degree of ambition and leadership
by all countries is needed to secure the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
NOTING “Mālama Honua – to care for our island Earth,” a Statement of Commitments from
participants in the joint ICOMOS-International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Nature-
Culture Journey held at the World Conservation Congress in Hawai‘i, USA in 2016, which calls on the
nature and culture sectors to work together to address urgent global challenges by, among other
things, advancing integrated nature-culture solutions to achieving the Paris Agreement.
NOTING decision 41 COM 7 of the 41st session of the WH Committee (Krakow 2017) which asks that
“in view of the urgency of the issue of climate impacts on WH properties, the WH Centre and the
Advisory Bodies aim, subject to available time and resources, to prioritize work on a proposed update
to the [Policy Document], for consideration by the Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.”
NOTES with appreciation the significant work undertaken by ICOMOS Members, ISCs and NCs in
providing cultural heritage voices in the processes of the UNFCCC, including COP21, COP22 (Marrakech
2016), and COP23 (Bonn 2017); in promoting climate action throughout the ICOMOS network.
NOTES with appreciation the work of UNESCO, including the World Heritage Centre, the Culture Sector,
the Natural Sciences Sector and other programs to provide leadership on issues related to climate
change and heritage.
EMPHASIZES (i) that cultural heritage is both impacted by climate change and a source of resilience for
communities; (ii) that heritage sites as well as local communities’ intangible heritage, knowledge and
practices constitute an invaluable repository of information and strategies to address climate change,
even while those resources are themselves at risk from climate impacts; (iii) the value of cultural
heritage-based solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
WELCOMES the adoption of the Paris Agreement and ENCOURAGES all ICOMOS Members to
strengthen their efforts to aid in implementing the Paris Agreement, emphasizing cultural heritage and
landscape-based solutions, noting the need for rapid and deep reductions in emissions to reverse the
increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C; that adaptation efforts should take into
consideration vulnerable communities and ecosystems, and enhance understanding and action with
respect to loss and damage from climate change; and the need for solidarity with those nations most
impacted by, or least able to bear the cost of, climate change to enable them to safeguard their
heritage.
WELCOMES the decision of the IPCC at its 43rd Session to pay special attention in its Sixth Assessment
Report cycle (AR6) to the impacts of climate change on cities and to prepare three additional special
reports; and to include in AR7 (2023-2028) a Special Report on Climate Change and Cities, and NOTES
the opportunity to improve the connection between these IPCC processes and the scientific work of
ICOMOS and its Members, including a potential Special Report on Climate Change & Cultural Heritage
in a future IPCC cycle.
WELCOMES the climate change-related decisions of the WH Committee at its 40th and 41st sessions
and the subsequent formation by the Director-General of an ICOMOS Working Group on Climate
Change and Heritage (WG) to aid the Secretariat (WH units) in addressing the requests made of
ICOMOS by the WH Committee.
REQUESTS the Board, in coordination with the SC and the AC and with the support of the Director-
General and the Secretariat, subject to available time and resources, to prioritize action on, and to
develop appropriate mechanisms for overseeing ongoing development of, ICOMOS’s climate change
policies and engagement in light of the implementation of the Paris Agreement; experiences gained
from the work of ISCs and NCs; IPCC work and science updates; and the work of UNESCO, IUCN, the
International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM),
and other relevant organizations, and taking advantage of the assistance offered by the WG as
appropriate.

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