UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


Director speaks at G20 Culture Ministerial on cultural heritage’s role in addressing climate crisis

15 April 2021

Director of UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, Professor May Cassar, spoke at the G20 Culture Ministerial event in a panel discussion on Strategies and Actions for Increased Resilience of Cultural Heritage on the 12th April.

Professor May Cassar presenting at the G20 Culture Ministerial

As part of Italy’s G20 Presidency, over the past week a series of webinars for the G20 Culture Ministerial have gathered experts, scholars and operators from all over the world to explore issues and create proposals concerning culture and heritage. The multi-stakeholder webinars provided policymakers of G20 countries with the latest evidence to define clear policy objectives and to jointly pursue them through coordinated action and will feed into G20 Culture Ministerial Meeting at the end of July this year. 

The experts interrogated identified pressing global concerns for culture; illicit trafficking of works of art, the effects of climate change on cultural heritage, the creative industries and the digital revolution. Professor May Cassar, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage contributed her expert opinion to the webinar on the second priority of ‘Addressing the Climate Crisis Through Culture: Preserving Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’. 

Professor Cassar presented three key issues on climate change and cultural heritage and possible policy interventions. First of all, she addressed our duty to protect cultural heritage from the impacts of climate change, alongside the duty for cultural heritage managers, policy makers and the public alike to ensure that cultural heritage helps where it can alleviate impacts on the planet. She identified a need for a “balance relationship among people, patrimony and planet”, stating that:

Cultural heritage endures because it is situated withing a community, a society, and does not stand alone.”

In her second point, she highlighted how embedded intangible skills and knowledge within our historic buildings and environments can be a source of knowledge for how we respond to the climate emergency, construct our future buildings and cities more sustainably and for how we can live more in tune with the planet.

Her third and final point was to address the urgent need for policies to redress the balance between our dependence on fossil fuels to drive the environmental control systems that protect cultural heritage and the urgency to protect the planet from greenhouse gases that are harmful to the planet. She expressed that:

It is our responsibility to diversify our energy sources, otherwise we are colluding in the destruction of our planet and cultural heritage elsewhere” 

Watch Professor Cassar’s presentation on these key points, and recommended policy interventions from 1:40:00

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