Climate change impacts on cultural heritage: Facing the challenge


In Brussels on 2 November 2021, the Greek Government through the Coordination Unit of the Greek Initiative at UN level for the protection of cultural and natural heritage from climate impacts, chaired by the Principal Advisor to the Prime Minister, Mr. George Kremlis, organised a High-Level Event, in the framework of COP26. The event took place in a hybrid form with the support of the Ministries of Culture & Sports, Environment & Energy, Climate Crisis & Civil Protection, and the Academy of Athens, under the auspices of the European Commission.

The event was greeted through a written message by the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The international organisations participating in the Flexible Mechanism of this emblematic initiative (UNESCO, UNFCCC and World Meteorological Organization) were actively involved and have fully supported the event. Ms. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General, Ms. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO‘s Secretary-General and Professor Zerefos, Secretary-General of the Academy of Athens and Climate Envoy for Greece, highlighted the need for tackling the effects of the climate crisis, at the level of the protection of the planet’s cultural and natural heritage.

Moreover, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Mr. John Kerry and the European Commission Vice -President, Mr. Margaritis Schinas, emphasized the need to integrate the climate crisis dimension into the design and implementation of any national policy, mentioning the value of initiatives, such as the Greek initiative, for the achievement of sustainable development, having as a key pillar the proper management and preservation of the world cultural and natural heritage.

During the three sections of the event, which were chaired by the Chairman of the Flexible Mechanism, Mr. George Kremlis, the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, Ms. Lina Mendoni, the Greek Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy, Mr. George Amyras and the President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Ministers and representatives from 10 countries (Greece, Egypt, Jordan, North Macedonia, Cyprus, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Iraq, Armenia, USA) scientists and experts on climate change, as well as Heads of international organizations, specifically, Professor Teresa Patricio, President of ICOMOS, Ms. Yana Gevorgyan, Secretariat Director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), Ms. Sneška Quaedvlieg – Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra and Ms. Alexandra Mitsotakis, Founder and President of the World Human Forum, proposed constructive recommendations regarding the policy, the mechanisms and tools for the protection of cultural and natural monuments and human civilization.

The discussion was enriched by the evaluation of the replies to the questionnaire by the supporting states of the Initiative, which was launched by the Coordination Unit, and it was presented, on behalf of the Coordination Unit, by Dr. Evangelos Gerasopoulos, Director of the Hellenic Group on Earth Observation, National Observatory of Athens.

Participants unanimously recognized the need to integrate culture into climate action by highlighting good practices, monuments vulnerability criteria and appropriate methodology, as well as the effective use of digital tools and innovative practices to support measures to prevent and improve resilience against the effects of climate change.

They also agreed on the need to further promote the initiative through international campaigns and on the integration of relevant actions in education. At the same time, they underlined the added value of exchange of best practices and the promotion of bilateral and multilateral cooperation at the state level, while committing themselves to a Summit to be held next spring in Athens.

The concluding remarks of the event were presented by the Greek Minister of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, Mr. Christos Stylianidis.