Climate change impacts on cultural heritage: Facing the challenge

Actions GEO

What is GEO

The intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is a unique global network connecting government institutions, academic and research institutions, data providers, businesses, engineers, scientists and experts to create innovative solutions to global challenges at a time of exponential data growth, human development and climate change that transcend national and disciplinary boundaries. GEO, a partnership of more than 100 national governments and in excess of 100 Participating Organizations, envisions a future where decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth Observations to identify gaps and reduce duplication in the areas of sustainable development and sound environmental management.



During the Climate Action Summit in New York (September 2019), the Greek Prime Minister asserted as a priority initiative the protection of the natural and cultural heritage from adverse climate change impacts. Two months later (November 2019), an official statement on the role of Earth Observations in this endeavor was made by the Head of the Greek Delegation Team during the “Action on Climate Change” Session at the GEO-XVI Plenary. Following consultations between the GEO Secretariat, the Greek GEO Office and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), an official exchange of letters between the Directors of the GEO Secretariat and UNESCO-WHC took place, and the collaboration was decided to be initiated by launching an open call for a GEO Community Activity, co-led by UNESCO-WHC and the Greek GEO Office (June 2020)​. ​In July 2020, an open invitation to gauge the interest and support of the GEO community to incorporate urban cultural heritage aspects into GEO’s Work Programme was launched, and there was an overwhelming response with more than 76 entities from 24 countries, including 21 international organizations. In November 2021 the “Urban Heritage Climate Observatory” Community Activity was approved by GEO’s Executive Committee and it was kicked off in April 2021.


The “Urban Heritage Climate Observatory” (UHCO)

While untapped, Earth Observations hold great potential to monitor and enable specific adaptation strategies to shield urban cultural heritage from climate change risks. UHCO facilitates the achievement of Earth Observations by providing a forum for relevant partners to share practices, needs and expertise; matching user needs to Earth Observation assets to enrich and coordinate processes for the preservation, monitoring and management of urban cultural heritage​; and, enabling a modernization of practices through co-producing targeted tools and services.

UHCO aims at developing of a global platform to gather and integrate Earth Observations as well as supplementary data, information and composite indicators to address climate change impacts on monuments and elements of cultural urban heritage. Furthermore, pilot cases will be carefully selected to implement and test methodologies and tools as a means of fine-tuning and evaluation towards the global platform.

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