22 Climate Actions Recap

By Alanna Casey and Julianne Fontana, 2016 NRF-US/ICOMOS Graduate Interns


Leading up to COP22, we posted 22 strategies to heritage sustainability, and we’ve rounded up all 22 #climateactions here as a springboard into cutting-edge research in the field.

And this list is just the beginning! Keep checking back for updates on US/ ICOMOS’ Climate Change and Heritage online knowledge community and Keeping History Above Water’s news page.


Protecting cultural heritage seems like a daunting task in the face of climate change. What approaches can we take to make our actions effective and ethical?

  • #1 Form Interdisciplinary Partnerships: Climate change will impact all aspects of heritage, and solutions will come from the combined knowledge of various disciplines, fields, and communities.
  • #2 Adapt Heritage: Anthropogenic climate change is part of our global heritage and how we respond will impact our cultural future.
  • #3 Make Intentional Choices: To adapt, relocate, or abandon — the choice must be an informed and intentional one.
  • #4 Look Broadly: Climate adaptation strategies can come from community experience and tradition, as well as scientific inquiry.

How? Built Adaptations

This is just a sampling of many possible physical adaptations. Different communities and structures need different solutions.

  • #6 Build Permeable Barriers: Impermeable seawalls are things of the past. We need new technology that will connect cultural and ecological systems.
  • #10 Reuse Existing Buildings: The greenest building is one already built, and adaptive reuse helps preserve community character.
  • #11 Retrofit for Climate Change: Historic structures need 21st century updates to weather changing temperatures, bigger storms, rising sea levels, and new pest invasions.

Why? Creative Adaptations

Physical adaptations are important, but we also need to protect intangible heritage. Side events at COP 22 focused specifically on these themes. 

  • #12 Digitize Heritage: Use photographs, videos, technical drawings, 3D scans, and other technologies to document vulnerable buildings, practices, traditions, and objects.
  • #13 Play with Scale: Human impact on the environment? Environmental impact on humanity? Climate change stories must be attached to environmental AND cultural interpretation.
  • #15 Save Climate Refugees Culture: When communities are forced to relocate, both tangible and intangible heritage is at risk. New approaches are needed to document what cannot be saved.
  • #16 Leverage Traditional Knowledge: Indigenous science and management approaches may hold the best solutions to climate change-induced environmental and landscape challenges. Techniques include traditional, resilient settlement patterns, and low carbon building.
  • #17 Shifting Culinary Heritage: Culinary traditions have been shaped by environmental conditions and human responses. How will climate change affect traditional foodways and your dinner plate?

Who? Sources of Information

Every individual and community has something to contribute to the climate heritage discussion. Get involved and speak up for your places, whether they are coastal or inland.

  • #18 Speak Up for Your Place: We all have places that are important to us and our communities. By sharing why these places matter, we can help to shape preservation decisions.
  • #19 Let Social Justice Inform Preservation: As climate change alters our landscapes, we must wield preservation as a tool to support marginalized communities. Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux serves as a prime example.
  • #20 Don’t Forget Inland Sites: Historic sites aren’t just affected by rising seas; we also need solutions for more frequent fires, intensified storms, and warmer winters.

Where are we now?

COP 22 brought the climate heritage discussion to the international stage. We must continue building upon our knowledge, resources, and actions.

  • #21 Stay Connected: The collective brainpower working on climate issues and cultural heritage is growing all the time, and new ideas are coming from every direction.
  • #22 It’s Time for Marrakech to Start…influencing our adaptation planning!