AMHERST, Mass. – A UMass Amherst professor is playing an important role in advancing the idea that 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 practice.
The “Future of Our Pasts: Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action” report was recently released by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan at an event held during the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
Elizabeth Brabec, professor, department of landscape architecture and regional planning and director of the Center for Heritage and Society was one of the 28 authors of the report appointed to the Climate Change and Heritage Committee of ICOMOS, which produced the report over the past year. Her particular area of climate change research are the heritage issues in migration and displacement, and she is a member of the ICOMOS Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes.
“With almost 100 contributions and reviews from experts from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America representing natural and social sciences, heritage professionals and climate scientists and climate policy-makers, this important new report testifies to the breadth and policy relevance of cultural heritage to climate change” said Ishanlosen Odiaua of ICOMOS Nigeria, one of the report’s lead authors.
Twenty-eight lead and contributing authors from 19 countries prepared the report on behalf of the ICOMOS Climate Change and Heritage Working Group (CCHWG) to further the mobilization of the cultural heritage community to help meet the challenge of climate change.
“One of the messages that comes out very strongly in the report is that there are significant cultural heritage dimensions to every aspect of climate action covered by the Paris Agreement, including heightening ambition to address climate change, mitigating greenhouse gases, enhancing adaptive capacity, and planning for loss and damage,” said Andrew Potts, working group coordinator.
The work of the committee continues over the next year to expand research into the role of cultural heritage in climate change responses, and also integrate an understanding of cultural heritage with the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
ICOMOS is a non-governmental international organization dedicated to the conservation of the world's monuments and sites, and is one of three advisory bodies to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. ICOMOS operates through a network of experts that benefits from the interdisciplinary exchange of its members, among which are landscape architects, planners, architects, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, geographers, and engineers. ICOMOS is active in over 100 countries and operates 28 different international scientific committees.
The UMass Center for Heritage and Society, and funding support from the World Universities Network (WUN) that UMass is a member of, supported the design, production and printing of the report.