From January 2021 to April 2022, a group of 50 experts was mandated to study and map the impact of climate change on cultural heritage.

Coming from 25 EU Member States plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, this large scale investigation collected practices to protect and safeguard Europe’s cultural heritage.

For the very first time a political mandate was given to examine cultural heritage in times of climate change, in the framework of the Council’s Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022.

The group’s research lead to the publication of the report “Strengthening cultural heritage resilience for climate change. Where the European Green Deal meets cultural heritage” formulating a set of key recommendations for policy makers.

Already in 2003, the European Commission launched the world’s first call for research projects to investigate the impacts of climate change on outdoor cultural heritage. In 2008, more research was conducted on the impacts on indoor cultural heritage and the future energy demands of built heritage by coupling climate models with building simulation.

In 2022, the information gathered has been alarming, as climate change is directly and indirectly threatening all forms of cultural heritage, amongst others by severe precipitation, long heatwaves, droughts, strong winds and sea-level rise – all of which are expected to increase in the future.

Improving heritage resilience to climate change will involve a strategic shift towards investment in new forms of development. In today’s report, experts point out that while different ministries are responsible for cultural heritage and climate change policies at national level, many actors must continuously and consistently align their strategies to be truly efficient. This is complicated by the fact that there are no coherent methodologies for obtaining reliable information, quantitative data or deep knowledge about the decay and loss of cultural heritage.

The report also points out that cultural heritage can be a most valuable source of knowledge and inspiration: experts collected a total of 83 best practice examples from 26 countries, which demonstrate the potential of cultural heritage solutions in the context of climate change. Taking the example of built heritage, the report details that it acts as a repository of traditional knowledge and craft techniques that were often born out of energy and resource scarcities. A very high percentage of built heritage uses climate-friendly building materials, which were traditionally locally sourced and manufactured, avoiding high transportation costs and CO2 emissions.

In their work, the group of experts kept in view the main postulates of the European Green Deal, presented by President Ursula von der Leyen in December 2019, which represents Europe’s response to the grand challenges posed to our societies by climate change and aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.