In 1982, UNESCO’s General Conference established 18 April as the International Day for Monuments and Sites. The Day is promoted by ICOMOS globally, and the theme for 2022 is ‘Heritage and Climate.’
Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, and among the greatest threats facing cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage monuments and sites. One in three natural sites and one in six cultural heritage sites are currently threatened by climate change.
In recent months and years, we have seen cultural and natural heritage sites, including many UNESCO World Heritage sites, threatened by wildfires, floods, storms and mass-bleaching events.
UNESCO’s report, World Heritage forests: Carbon sinks under pressure, found that a staggering 60% of World Heritage forests are threatened by climate change-related events. Marine sites are equally under pressure. Two-thirds of these vital carbon stores - home to 15% of global blue carbon assets - are currently experiencing high risks of degradation, according to the UNESCO Marine World Heritage: Custodians of the globe’s blue carbon assets study, and if no action is taken, coral may disappear at natural heritage sites by the end of the century.
In response to this undeniable impact of climate change on World Heritage monuments and sites, UNESCO is working to build the capacities of countries and communities to prepare for and recover from climate-change related impacts and disasters. At the same time, we are committed to harnessing the potential of culture for climate action, which still remains largely untapped.
Our strengthened collaboration with partners and Member States to address the growing need for enhanced monitoring of the impact of climate change on UNESCO World Heritage through more accurate and relevant data has been critical, as well as our efforts to leverage global platforms, including the Urban Heritage Climate Observatory.
The development of inclusive public policies for climate action through culture is another essential step to advance a shared global climate agenda, which will be strongly supported through the implementation of the updated Policy Document on climate action for World Heritage. In addition, building knowledge on World Heritage and climate change will allow us to inform our future roadmap for the next 50 years of the 1972 World Heritage Convention as we reflect on this during its 50th anniversary this year.
Today on International Day for Monuments and Sites, we emphasize UNESCO’s commitment to ensuring that World Heritage monuments and sites are fully integrated into climate action and strategies, both as a shared global asset that needs to be safeguarded from the effects of climate change and as a transversal tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation for current and future generations to come.
Read a recent issue of the World Heritage Review on Climate Change: https://whc.unesco.org/en/review/100/
VIDEO: Quantifying climate benefits from UNESCO World Heritage forests