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20 February 2020

New plan steps up heritage response to climate crisis

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) unveils Climate Action Plan at Tantallon Castle.

Three people stand at the entrance of a castle, one of them holding up a paper document

The new plan outlines an ambitious programme of climate commitments over the next five years and beyond, which will see over 5,000 years of Scotland’s history involved in the fight against climate change. A transformational approach to the organisation’s operations will include the doubling of emissions reductions targets to achieve ‘net-zero’ by 2045.

Climate Action Plan 2020-25

As the country’s largest operator of tourist attractions, HES also aims to highlight the unique potential of Scotland’s iconic historic sites to inspire climate action and drive positive and sustainable behaviour change through the new plan.

With the unprecedented rate of climate change one of the fastest-growing threats to the survival of cultural heritage and historic sites worldwide, the plan details how HES will expand and develop its ground-breaking Climate Change Risk Assessment, a report on the climate change impacts on the historic sites in the care of HES which was published in 2018.

The organisation will also continue to prioritise investment in research and technology to better understand the physical, social and economic impacts of climate change on the historic environment, and lead innovation in the monitoring and management of historic assets.

While the climate crisis has placed historic sites on the frontline, HES’s new Climate Action Plan also demonstrates how the historic environment can support Scotland’s transition to a low carbon future and make a positive contribution to the lives of communities across the country.

As well as setting out proposals for significant reductions in emissions associated with its own operations, the plan also commits the organisation to lead the way in promoting the energy efficiency of historic buildings, which make up around 20% of the country’s housing stock.

HES will also continue to champion the contribution of traditional construction skills, methods and materials to a sustainable economy.

Jane Ryder OBE, Chair of HES, said:

“In the past year, international heritage experts have come to Scotland to work with us to develop pioneering methods to better understand the climate change threat to World Heritage sites.

In addition to piloting some ground-breaking approaches, we’ve hosted the launch of a new international network which has united cultural heritage organisations from across the globe to take action against climate change.

“And now we’re setting out our most ambitious climate change plans to date. The Climate Action Plan will transform how we operate as an organisation, increasing resilience and making our business more effective and efficient while placing environmental responsibility at the heart of everything we do.

“As Scotland prepares to host COP26 later this year, we want to demonstrate that our nation’s past has a crucial role to play in delivering a green, low-carbon, sustainable future for all.”

Ewan Hyslop, Head of Technical Research & Science at HES, said:

We are in the midst of a global climate crisis, and Scotland’s historic sites are already feeling its impacts.

“We need to take significant and urgent action now to protect our past for the future, and this new plan sets out how we will build on our previous success in areas such as energy efficiency, emissions reduction and impact assessment, and encompass broader actions around areas such a sustainable procurement, circular economy and biodiversity.

“We can’t face the climate crisis and its impact on the historic environment alone, and the plan outlines how we will work collaboratively with others locally, nationally and internationally to pool expertise and share knowledge.

“Through innovation in areas such as research, training and education, and by supporting new approaches to sustainable travel and tourism, we will place Scotland and our historic environment at the forefront of the global movement to tackle climate change.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop joined HES to launch the Climate Action Plan at Tantallon Castle, one of the coastal heritage sites under threat from climate change which HES is highlighting during the Year of Coasts and Waters. 

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“The historic environment has a critical role to play in our response to the global climate emergency. This Climate Action Plan recognises the scale of the challenge we face and the need for immediate and widespread action.

I welcome the commitment Historic Environment Scotland is making to meeting our ambitious emissions targets and look forward to seeing the results of its work in the coming years.”

About the Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan sets out HES’s climate change commitments for the next five years and beyond, outlining 78 actions across seven themes:

  • climate impacts and adaptation
  • energy and carbon management
  • circular economy
  • sustainable tourism
  • sustainable procurement
  • biodiversity and landscapes
  • sustainable travel

The seven themes are underpinned by four key strands of activity that will be used to drive change. These are:

  • training and education
  • innovation and technology
  • partnerships
  • people

About Year of Coasts and Waters 2020

The Year of Coasts and Waters (#YCW2020) led by VisitScotland, will be showcased throughout 2020 and celebrated with a programme of events. Activities and ideas will shine a spotlight on the impact our waters have had on Scotland, from the formation of beautiful natural features to the creation of our national drink - whisky.

Supporting Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 logo

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
  • View our press pack and keep up to date by registering for media release email alerts. If you wish to unsubscribe, please contact us.

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For further information, please contact:

Claire Mullaney
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Direct line: 0131 668 8588
Mobile: 07881 512 379