The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has identified climate change as the fastest growing threat to natural World Heritage. A 2016 report prepared by UNESCO and UNEP used case studies from across the world to illustrate how world heritage is increasingly vulnerable to climate change. The report concluded that achieving the aims of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming is “vital” to the future of World Heritage.
The scientific research from the IPCC is telling us that to meet the Paris Agreement's temperature goals, the world will need to reach net-zero emissions on average by 2050. Currently, we are a long way from the Paris Agreement's target of limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. In fact, we are currently on a pathway to +3°C – and at current rates of warming will get to 1.5°C well within the next 3 decades. We have until 2050 (at the latest) to reach net zero carbon emissions globally. Getting us back on track is only possible if we star reducing now, and reduce emissions by half, by 2030. This means that the current 10 years are crucial.
Cities are on the front line of climate change, where both causes and impacts of environmental degradation are experienced – as a result, many are now taking ambitious and decisive action. National, regional, city and local governments all over the world are committing to targets commensurate with the twin challenges of climate and ecological breakdown. ROCK focuses on historic city centres as extraordinary laboratories to demonstrate how Cultural Heritage can be a unique and powerful engine of regeneration, sustainable development and economic growth for the whole city. So how then can cultural heritage cities promote sustainable development and decarbonisation - and support its cultural and heritage bodies to contribute to their goals for climate action?
One such opportunity is to encourage cultural and heritage organisations to report on their environmental impacts, and through this process, access support and training opportunities on good green practice! For exmple, in 2019, Liverpool City Council took several important steps to address the Green Agenda. Mayor Joe Anderson appointed a Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability and committed to cut its carbon output to zero by 2030 working with individuals and partners across Liverpool. Culture Liverpool (Liverpool City Council) have begun to benchmark and annually monitor the carbon impact of the cultural organisations it funds through the Culture & Arts Investment Programme (CAIP), the main funding programme for cultural organisations based within the boundaries of Liverpool.
Cities targets for decarbonisation must include culture - but the sector needs support. Critically, cities need to provide resource and support to cultural organisations, should they require them, to monitor and report their environmental performance. This could include: offering environmental training, providing access to specialist environmental management tools, and a public database of case studies to share and celebrate good environmental practice. A successful carbon emissions reduction strategy is based on: access to good quality data, and understanding that data. Once a good quality dataset has been identified, a net zero strategy can be developed – remember, you can’t manage what you can’t measure!