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Sustainability and cultural heritage

cultural heritage and sustainability

Climate change and environmental degradation are among the biggest challenges of our times, threatening Europe and the world. The European Union (EU) is taking action and leading the way, striving to become the first climate-neutral continent. This also applies to cultural heritage.

Sustainability is one of the five pillars of the Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage, which highlights its potential to enhance social capital, boost economic growth and secure environmental sustainability. Culture and cultural heritage can help to achieve inclusive and sustainable development.

Three clusters of actions are included in the Framework to:

  1. regenerate cities and regions through cultural heritage
  2. promote adaptive re-use of heritage buildings
  3. balance access to cultural heritage with sustainable cultural tourism and natural heritage

Sustainability in buildings

The European Green Deal is the European Commission’s road map for making the EU’s economy sustainable. Buildings are a crucial element of this initiative because they account for 40% of all energy consumption and 36% of EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Improving energy efficiency in buildings plays a key role in achieving the ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 set out in the European Green Deal. The aim of the renovation wave is to increase the rate and quality of renovation works of existing buildings so they emit less carbon dioxide.

Horizon 2020, the Research and Innovation programme of the Commission for 2014-2020, is funding projects addressing different aspects of energy efficiency in buildings, including historical and cultural ones.

PRO-Heritage partners, for instance, aim to offer initial and permanent education to professionals and craftspeople providing traditional competences and skills for built heritage, based on the best practices of partner organisations.

Climate change: a threat to our cultural heritage

Recent catastrophic damage to cultural heritage sites have put an even stronger emphasis on the need to safeguard sites from natural and non-natural hazards.

The European Commission is gathering experts from EU Member States to identify and exchange good practices and innovative measures for the protection of cultural heritage in relation to climate change. This is part of the work under the Council Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022, which follows the Open Method of Coordination approach.

The Open Method of Coordination is a policy-making process that does not result in binding legislative measures. OMC groups comprised of experts appointed from ministries of culture and national cultural institutions meet to exchange best practices and to produce policy manuals and tool kits.

Horizon 2020

The EU Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020, funds projects working on “increased resilience and sustainable reconstruction of historic areas to cope with climate change and hazard events”.

Find out more about Heritage at Risk: EU research and innovation for a more resilient cultural heritage.

Creative Climate Leadership

Funded under the Creative Europe programme, this project helps artists and cultural professionals to explore the cultural dimensions of climate change. Artistic and cultural communities have a unique and critical role to play: they influence new ways of being, doing and thinking. Creative Climate Leadership supports cultural professionals to apply these qualities to problems related to climate challenge.

Find out more about Creative Climate Leadership.

HERACLES project

This project aims to design, validate and promote responsive solutions for the effective resilience of cultural heritage against climate change effects through a holistic, multidisciplinary approach.

Find out more about HERACLES.

Shelter project

The Shelter project brings together the scientific community and heritage managers to increase resilience, reduce vulnerability and to promote better and safer reconstruction in historic areas impacted by climate related hazards.

Find out more about Shelter.

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