What is it? The Climate Heritage Network is a voluntary, mutual support network of local and city, state/provincial and regional, indigenous peoples’, national arts, culture and heritage governmental and quasi-governmental boards, offices, ministries and site management agencies, as well as NGOs, universities, businesses and other organisations committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The focus of the network is providing support to organisations from jurisdictions that have made concrete climate action pledges such as those in the Under 2 Coalition and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. Vision Despite profound connections between climate change and culture, today there are thousands of arts, culture and heritage actors and advocates whose talents have not yet been mobilised on climate change issues. These include administrators, anthropologists, archaeologists, architects, artists, conservators, curators, engineers, historians, librarians, musicians, urban planners, site managers, as well as scientists, researchers, teachers and scholars and carriers of indigenous knowledge and local wisdom. The Climate Heritage Network aims to flip that paradigm.
Why is it Relevant? I became aware of the Climate Heritage Network (CHN) after attending the SeaChange Conference on Coastal Heritage and Climate Change in Blackpool and, as a consequence, I attended the official launch of the CHN in Edinburgh in October. The CHN aims to aid in mobilising and preparing the arts, cultural and heritage sectors for climate change. Arts, culture and heritage should be central to targeting the climate crisis – as culture is about revealing what matters to people. The heritage sector has great potential to transition from a casualty of climate change, to a catalyst for the solution. Cultural heritage provides both a way of communicating the urgency of climate change, and an opportunity to learn lessons from longevity. The cultural heritage we are interested in from a CPN perspective may be specifically coastal - and the CHN does indeed have strong coastal contingent - but many of the lessons to be learnt in terms of values, communication, cultural meaning, sense of place and identity are universal and too often overlooked. Despite the fact these sectors are dealing with the same challenges regarding climate change adaptation and promoting the value of their assets (ie. through natural capital, net gain and similar frameworks), even in closely related – and inextricably linked sectors such as heritage, culture and environment - these conversations are still taking place in isolation. There is talk of an understandable need for ‘cultural heritage capital’ and value placement, but this should be innately part of the wider ‘natural capital’ conversation and seen as a joint, not separate, aim. Most cultural heritage sites can never be comfortably separated from their situational context, natural environment and the embedded meaning these provide. As the Network articulates, ‘Cultural Heritage is a Climate Action Issue. Climate Action is a Cultural Heritage Issue.’ Cultural heritage is also indissolubly an environmental and a coastal issue. It is important to bolster the environmental and coastal voice of the network, and tap into the benefits of the knowledge being shared across the community. The Climate Heritage Network is a key connector and source of support for all of the aforementioned organisations and sectors, and is strengthened by a wide membership with varied, yet complementary, focal interests. The conversation around coastal cultural heritage and climate change is central to the sense of place of the coastal areas we love, and the sense of self we, in turn, draw from them. We will be continuing to support the CHN and the integration of the arts, heritage and cultural sectors in the context of climate change in the upcoming year.