Climate change impacts on cultural heritage: Facing the challenge


On 30 May 2022, the online High-Level Event titled “Addressing climate change impacts on cultural and natural heritage in South East Europe” took place in the framework of Athens’ Chairmanship-in-Office of the South East European Cooperation Process. It was organised by the Coordination Unit with the support of the Ministries of Culture & Sports, Environment & Energy, Climate Crisis & Civil Protection, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about the damaging effects of the climate crisis on our cultural and natural legacy in South East Europe, as well as to build momentum for the Greek initiative at the UN level to preserve this common global heritage. During the ministerial panel, 14 Ministers and high-level representatives from 10 different cities, have taken the floor regarding the climate change impacts on cultural and natural heritage, mentioning the importance of joining forces and working jointly in an interdisciplinary manner. Scientists and experts on climate change, as well as representatives of international organisations, such as UNESCO, explained in detail how the tremendous effects of climate change, such as heat wave, extreme wildfires, sea level rise, rise of sea temperature etc. have already affected our natural and cultural legacy, both tangible and intangible. All participants agreed that climate change should be a key issue on the international agenda and highlighted the need for cooperation beyond borders through gaining additional knowledge of the extreme climate phenomena, exchanging know-how and sharing good practices. Advances in science and technology must be used to the fullest to prevent the effects of the climate crisis from escalating and promote climate resilience.

A critical evaluation of the answers of the Questionnaire launched by the Coordination Unit of the Greek Initiative was presented. The analysis showed that various climate and environmental hazards are felt by the reported cultural and natural heritage sites, requiring multidisciplinary and holistic approaches and mitigation measures, while multi-sectorial impacts are already being felt and are a source of significant concern also for sites not included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The above emphasise the need for action at international, national and local level.