Climate change impacts on cultural heritage: Facing the challenge

Climate change impacts on cultural heritage


of the President of the Republic Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos
in the International Conference
“Impacts of climate change on cultural heritage: Facing the challenge”

I am particularly glad that Greece, being the repository of a huge wealth of Cultural Heritage, both tangible and intangible, took the initiative to convene, in June 2019, an International Conference on the “Impacts of Climate Change on Cultural Heritage”. The objective of the Conference is to continue the efforts already undertaken by the International Community in order to address this acute global issue.

By the end of the 19th century, and especially during the 20th century, it became clear that climate can change not only due to long-term natural variations but also due to human intervention. Owing to the greenhouse effect, rising levels of carbon dioxide, resulting from human activity, have caused the temperature of our Planet to rise, thus entailing an anthropogenic destabilization of the climate. According to the most reputable scientists, there is no doubt that we are now witnessing an unprecedented increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, including record-high temperatures and forest wildfires, such as those observed last summer in Canada, Portugal, Russia, Sweden the United Kingdom, the United States, and Greece.

Unfortunately, our Cultural Heritage is not spared by these adverse effects of climate change. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest reports clearly demonstrate, unless we act immediately to address climate change, the damage on the integrity of world Monuments of an outstanding value may become irreversible.

In view of the forthcoming UN Climate Change Summit of September 2019, the Conference of Athens is designed to send a strong message and raise public awareness in order to encourage effective global action on this pressing issue. At the same time, the Conference will be an excellent opportunity to elaborate a framework of viable solutions on how to monitor the damage caused and how to protect the world’s cultural heritage, especially through the use of innovative technologies, the exchange of best practices and the promotion of multi-stakeholder projects.

Climate change represents a major global challenge. But there is still time to act. Better sooner than later!



António Guterres


June 21-22, 2019, Athens

It is a pleasure to greet this conference.

Climate change is a threat to our future, but also to our heritage, natural and cultural. Extreme weather events and shifts in climate are taking a toll on ancient monuments and sites. Climate-induced migration is endangering traditional knowhow and could accelerate the loss of language diversity.

Culture is powerful source of identity and resilience – and can guide us in responding to the global climate emergency. Cultural heritage offers environment-friendly building techniques and agricultural practices. Intangible cultural heritage also includes knowledge about the environment, weather, atmosphere and biodiversity – all underpinning our capacity to adapt.

As we strive for the transformation we need, it is time to include cultural heritage in our discussions of climate change. I commend Greece for convening this conference, which is an important contribution to the broader discussions by UNESCO on the role of cultural heritage for sustainable development. Please accept my best wishes for a productive gathering.

International Conference
“Climate change impacts on cultural heritage: Facing the challenge”
Concept note

Due to the adverse effects of climate change, cultural and natural heritage is nowadays under constant threat. If we do not act immediately to address climate change, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest reports clearly underline, the damage on cultural and natural heritage and, in particular on the integrity of world monuments of an outstanding universal value, may become irreversible.

Greece, repository of a wealth of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, wishes to convene, in June 2019, an international Conference, addressing the climate change impact on cultural and natural heritage, with the participation of Heads of State or Government, International Organizations, distinguished academia and other relevant stakeholders. With this initiative, Greece, taking into account the ongoing discussion on the issue introduced by UNESCO, the established expertise of WMO on climate effects and the developments in UNFCCC, wishes to encourage climate action, making a positive contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of SDGs 11.4 and 13.

The Conference aims to result in a framework of viable solutions, including the use of new technologies and concrete actions on how to monitor and protect the world’s cultural and natural heritage as well as strengthen its resilience. Furthermore, it will seek to raise awareness and encourage global action on this issue, contributing at the same time to the goals of the Climate Summit in September 2019 and the implementation of UNESCO’s strategy for action on climate change. In addition, the Conference could consider the establishment of a standing committee on heritage and climate change, with a view to assisting, as appropriate, the work of relevant UN bodies and International Organizations.

The Conference intends to cover topics such as adaptation and resilience of cultural and natural heritage to climate change and extreme weather events, enhancement of cultural heritage protection, information and awareness raising, education, exchange of best practices, exploitation of research outcomes and use of innovative technologies as well as promotion of cooperation at all levels.

The concluding Declaration of the Conference will aim at sending a strong political message all around the world and bringing together political and scientific actions, including the development of multi-stakeholder actions and projects, under the themes of cultural heritage and climate change.


Total World Heritage Sites


Cultural Sites


Natural Sites


World Heritage Sites in Danger