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27 October 2021

UK heritage agencies join forces to protect heritage from climate change

Online heritage summit explores ways to face the shared challenges of climate change ahead of COP26.

aerial image of a small fishing village

Heritage organisations from across the UK are coming together today (Wednesday 27 October) for an online summit to explore ways in which they can work together to face the shared challenges that climate change presents to the historic environment.

The Climate Resilience Heritage Summit, hosted by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and organised in partnership with Cadw, Historic England, English Heritage, The National Trust, The Department for Communities for Northern Ireland and The National Trust for Scotland, aims to build on previous partnership between the organisations and set out how they can continue to collaborate in the future to strengthen the resilience of the historic environment in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales and help communities adapt to withstand the impacts of climate change already underway – which supports a key goal of the COP26 negotiations.

Climate change is one of the most significant challenges for the management of historic places, with the growing intensity and frequency of climate hazards – such as flooding and coastal erosion – requiring increasing resources to both investigate and respond to these risks.

By sharing data; improving collaboration between public bodies, private sector organisations and researchers; and developing consistent approaches to measuring and monitoring climate risk; it is hoped that agencies can address these challenges and help empower the managers of historic assets with increased knowledge and understanding of climate risk and in turn to develop and implement effective adaptation measures to enhance resilience to climate change.

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

“The effects of climate change have serious consequences for the historic environment both here in Scotland and throughout the rest of the UK, and many of our historic sites are already experiencing those impacts.

“The resilience of these historic places will be crucial to achieving net-zero targets and transitioning communities to a sustainable, low-carbon future. In order for us to achieve this, it’s important that organisations work together to monitor and assess climate risk so we can respond and adapt most effectively.

“At this crucial time for climate action, it is fitting that the UK’s heritage agencies have this opportunity to gather to share knowledge, learning and best practice and strengthen our partnerships, and I look forward to continuing this collaboration in the future as we work together for the benefit of our shared heritage.”

Hannah Fluck, Head of Environmental Strategy at Historic England, said:

“Heritage organisations across the UK are facing similar challenges in understanding the impact climate change is having on our historic environment. By working together, through sharing knowledge and resources, we hope to gain a better understanding of the risks so many sites face. While we may need to prepare for some difficult decisions, we hope to find the best solutions for protecting our precious heritage so that it can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.”

Stuart Brooks, Head of Conservation and Policy for the National Trust for Scotland, said: “The impacts of climate change are already being felt by the Trust across our entire portfolio of historic buildings, gardens and natural landscapes. We all need to find solutions to adapt and plan for the future and working together and sharing knowledge is the most effective approach and makes the best use of our limited resources. We very much welcome this initiative and look forward to playing our part in what we know to be our biggest collective challenge in the decades ahead.”

Imogen Sambrook, Heritage and Climate consultant at the National Trust, said: "Climate change represents the biggest single threat to the UK's iconic historic sites, landscapes, buildings and collections. There is much that can be done to help adapt and mitigate the impacts and our heritage can be part of the solution by making the best possible use of our historic buildings by restoring and retrofitting them in ways that are sympathetic to their character and history.

"No one organisation can address climate change alone and it is vital the heritage sector works together to share what we're all doing, to find out what works and what doesn't, and support one other to help tackle climate change.”

Ruth Knight, Head of Climate and Sustainability at English Heritage, said: “We are already seeing the impact of climate change at our sites. It is one of the most significant issues facing the historic environment and it is crucial that we work collaboratively to adapt to this unprecedented threat. This summit offers a vital opportunity to come together ahead of COP26, to consider how best to address these shared challenges and plan how we move forward”.

Jill Fairweather, Cadw’s Historic Environment Skills Manager, said: "We are seeing the effects of climate change across the historic environment in Wales. We welcome this opportunity for collaboration to increase knowledge and understanding of the threats and perhaps some opportunities from climate change; to increase capacity by developing the awareness, skills and tools needed to manage the impacts, and to build the resilience of the historic environment by taking action."

About Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. HES is also the 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 Historic Environment Scotland.

About Historic England

We are Historic England the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.

About The National Trust for Scotland

The National Trust for Scotland is the conservation charity that over 90 years has saved, maintained and shared many of the country’s most loved places, rich with history, heritage, nature and culture. The charity celebrates Scotland’s heritage and with more than 100 places in its care, there’s a place for everyone to love.

The National Trust for Scotland relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage that people from Scotland and across the world all love, ensuring its future for everyone to enjoy.

About English Heritage

English Heritage is a charity which cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites - from world-famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of the empire to a Cold War bunker. Through these, we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million people each year.

About Cadw

Cadw is the Welsh Government’s historic environment service. We are working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment for Wales.

We do this by:
• helping to care for our historic environment for the benefit of people
• today and in the future
• promoting the development of the skills that are needed to look after
• our historic environment properly
• helping people to cherish and enjoy our historic environment
• making our historic environment work for our economic well-being
• working with partners to achieve our common goals together.

Cadw is part of the Welsh Government’s Arts and Sport Department and is answerable to the Deputy Minister, Dawn Bowden MS. Cadw is a Welsh word meaning ‘to keep’ or ‘to protect’.

Follow Historic Environment Scotland

Twitter: @HistEnvScot | @welovehistory

Facebook: @HistoricEnvScotland | @VisitHistoricScotland

Instagram: @HistEnvScot | @historicscotland


For further information, please contact:

Claire Mullaney
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Mobile: 07221 959 962