Future of Our Pasts Report

ICOMOS releases ‘Future of Our Pasts’ report to increase engagement of cultural heritage in climate action.


Cultural heritage offers immense and virtually
untapped potential to drive climate action and support ethical and
equitable transitions by communities towards low carbon, climate
resilient development pathways.  Realizing that potential,
however, requires both better recognition of the cultural dimensions of
climate change and adjusting the aims and methodologies of heritage


Achieving the Paris Agreement’s ambition of
limiting global warming to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels would
require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry,
buildings, transport, and cities, the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said. Better addressing the ways in
which cultural heritage is both impacted by climate change and a source
of resilience for communities would increase the ambition for – and
effectiveness of – transformative change, the
ICOMOS report released Wednesday concluded.


The ‘Future of Our Pasts: Engaging Cultural
Heritage in Climate Action’ report was released by ICOMOS on Wednesday
3rd June 2019 in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan at an event held during
the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee. 


Twenty-eight ICOMOS members representing 19
countries served as lead and contributing authors for the report. Eleven
ICOMOS international scientific committees and 21 ICOMOS national
committees provided feedback.  In addition, almost 50
invited experts provided peer review.


The ‘Future of Our Pasts’ report was prepared under
the scientific leadership of ICOMOS’s Climate Change and Heritage
Working Group.  The ICOMOS Triennial General Assembly held in 2017 in
New Delhi, India adopted Resolution 19GA 2017/30
entitled ‘Mobilizing ICOMOS and the Cultural Heritage Community To Help
Meet the Challenge of Climate.’  The Climate Change and Cultural
Heritage Working Group was formed in order to further the resolution’s
ambitious aims.


The report highlights a number of ways in which the
core considerations of cultural heritage intersect with the ambitions
of the Paris Agreement, including heightening ambition to address
climate change, mitigating greenhouse gases, enhancing
adaptive capacity, and planning for loss and damage.


At the same time, climate change is already
impacting communities and heritage globally, and these trends are
rapidly worsening. The report provides a framework for systematically
cataloguing the impacts of climate change drivers on six
main categories of cultural heritage, in order to aid in evaluating and
managing both climate risks to cultural heritage and the positive role
it can play as a source of resilience.


Given the nature and scale of climate impacts, the
report concludes that how we conceive of heritage and how we manage it
will require updating. New, multi-disciplinary approaches will be
required in areas such as heritage documentation,
disaster risk reduction, vulnerability assessment, conservation,
education and training as well as in the ways heritage sites are
presented to visitors.


‘The climate is changing and so must heritage. It
would be foolish to imagine the practice of heritage remaining static
while the world goes through the rapid and far-reaching transitions
discussed in the IPCC’s recent Special Report on
Global Warming of 1.5°C,’ said Professor Toshiyuku Kono, President of


ICOMOS initially plans to use the report to
organize its inputs into a proposed update of the UNESCO World Heritage
Committee’s 2007 Policy Document on the Impacts of Climate Change on
World Heritage sites, to develop a roadmap for heritage
organisations to engage on climate change issues, and to organise
outreach to the scientific community on research gaps and opportunities.


Beyond these immediate programmatic uses, ICOMOS
hopes the report will feed the new interdisciplinary #ClimateHeritage
movement that has begun to blossom including:

  • Supporting shifts in heritage approaches and methodologies necessitated by Climate Change. 
  • Providing a benchmark against with heritage actors may measure their engagement with climate change.
  • For climate activists and policy-makers, increasing their understanding of and engagement with cultural heritage. 
  • Stimulating attention to existing
    research gaps and opportunities for collaboration with scientists and
    scholars on the intersections of climate change and cultural heritage. 


Click here to view the report:

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