WHUK Climate Emergency Position Statement

April 26, 2022 Published by World Heritage UK


World Heritage UK (WHUK) is an independent organisation representing the 33 UK World Heritage Sites. It does not directly manage any Sites but provides support for those engaged in their strategic and day to day management. It does this by providing high-quality learning and professional development for people working for and with the Sites. WHUK aims to raise the profile of World Heritage at home and abroad, lobby for support, resources and policy change, exchange expertise and good practice, and link culture with nature. Importantly, it also aims to bring together all the agencies and interested parties better to look after the UK’s World Heritage Sites for future generations.

Climate change is the most pressing issue facing the world today. WHUK recognises its responsibility to help reduce the speed at which climate change is happening and to adapt to the changes it is causing. Climate change is already a threat to some World Heritage Sites in the UK through increased flooding and sea level rise and erosion, for example. But Sites may also be contributing to the causes of climate change. This happens, for example, if buildings on Sites are less energy efficient than they might be or indirectly, because they may attract large numbers of visitors who use carbon-based transport. Sites therefore need to explore how they can help mitigate climate change, either directly or indirectly.

WHUK is promoting climate change awareness and best practice among the UK World Heritage community. It is working to:

  • – improve WHUK members’ understanding of the concept of climate change
  • – raise awareness of the challenge of climate change for WHSs, including the need for both mitigation and adaptation actions
  • – raise awareness of best climate change practice in relation to heritage
  • – equip coordinators and the wider membership with the necessary tools to address climate change issues
  • – investigate how difficult issues and conflicts may be resolved
  • – be a place where issues can be explored and advice sought away from the day-to-day demands of work life
  • – develop helpful partnerships with other organisations, including UK National Commission to UNESCO, Historic England, Natural England, Historic Environment Scotland, CADW and international links
  • – undertake or commission research into climate change and WHSs, and
  • – influence potential funders to acknowledge the impact of climate change on heritage and align future funding opportunities accordingly.

WHUK has already taken action by setting up a working group of Site coordinators to consider climate change issues. It also used its annual conference in 2021 to disseminate and discuss climate change issues and their solutions in relation to World Heritage Sites.

As well as helping Sites themselves, WHUK will examine its procedures and practices to ensure they are consistent with the climate change agenda.  The key areas where it can play a part are in:

  • – making the need to address the climate emergency a central part of the organisation’s decision-making processes
  • – reducing the need to travel for meetings, training events and conferences by using as much as possible virtual communications, such as Zoom. Where travel is necessary, by using carbon efficient and climate-friendly means of transport, such as walking, cycling, buses, trains and electric vehicles
  • – encouraging its staff to work from home
  • – ensuring that the businesses it uses to help deliver its objectives are themselves seeking to mitigate and adapt to climate change in their operational procedures and practices, and, preferably have a climate change action plan
  • – in its advocacy work, promoting action to address climate change issues.

18 November 2021