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CLIMATE CHANGE AND CULTURAL HERITAGE


Representatives of participating countries at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference.


The discussions produced in different political arenas since the beginning of the 21st century mark a historical moment of paradigmatic changes in the traditional models of seeing and being seen in the world. We must start from an expanded idea about the marks of colonization of the last five centuries and the demand for a decolonial look, recovering traditional knowledge and our relationship with the land and integrating them into an idea of sustainable development, always thought from a socio-biodiversity point of view, through transdisciplinary collaboration.

The abnormality generated by the absurd concentration of wealth and access to resources - colonialist inheritance - manifests itself violently, having as a counterpoint the deepening of poverty and the forgetting of minorities and knowledge of native peoples. Thus, there is a need for an active demand for the construction of participatory and inclusive political systems that ensure greater capacity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (2015)[1], indicated by the UN and shared across the planet:

  1. No poverty;

  2. Zero hunger;

  3. Good health and well-being;

  4. Quality education;

  5. Gender equality;

  6. Clean water and sanitation;

  7. Affordable and clean energy;

  8. Decent work and economic growth;

  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure;

  10. Reduced inequalities;

  11. Sustainable cities and communities;

  12. Responsible consumption and production;

  13. Climate action;

  14. Life below water;

  15. Life on land;

  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions;

  17. Partnerships for the goals.

In addition to positions that move between opposing horizons, problems related to climate challenges, economic imbalance, social justice or human rights are no longer individual problems of States or Regions, but collective and global problems of humanity as a whole, with impacts across the planet.

When we discuss the climate challenges related to Cultural Heritage, we understand that they are not only installed in the specific relationships of environmental transformations and the consequent disasters resulting from the change of climate variables:

  1. The increase of the sea levels and the alteration of coastal landscapes, caused by the melting of glaciers and ice caps, promote immigration and migratory processes;

  2. Seasonal regimes of droughts and floods alter ecosystems along with family agricultural and forestry production, as well as all land-based resources;

  3. Extreme events such as hurricanes, storms and tsunamis enter into everyday life and manifest a situation of enormous social uncertainty.

These phenomena seriously affect the traditional knowledge, identities and well-being of the holders, material and natural cultural assets, their surroundings, ambience and areas of influence, causing intense, unpredictable and irreversible degradation, transformation or destruction of landscapes. On the other hand, the repercussions of these processes go beyond the components of the goods, reaching the point of deeply modifying the health of the ecosystems and of the peoples who inhabit these places. In this scenario, our view turns to heritage issues as an instrument of agency in issues involving health, well-being and food security, along with the dimensions of sustainability, the use of land and water and the permanence of populations in the affected regions, including their cultural ties.

Climate Change is not set in a future projection, it is the offspring of current uncertainty and crises. Its impacts, direct, indirect and in their different scales and unfolding, are immeasurable. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate (IPCC-UN), released on February 28, 2022, between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, representing more than 50% of the entire world population. Exodus, migrations, forced immigration, loss of cultural community ties and of bonds with the affected territories are direct consequences of environmental changes, many derived from climate change, in the various socioeconomic-political-cultural systems on our Earth.

Our material and immaterial goods require social and political responses that contribute to a culture of social resilience, understood as the ability to deal with a crisis or adversity based on previously learned cognitive, cultural and/or emotional processes that guarantee the preservation of their values. Resilience allows minimizing risks, excluding people and goods from exposure to hazards and proposing solutions and models that enable reducing the vulnerability of exposed elements, groups and places, environments and social groups that inhabit and/or use them.

In recent years, we have experienced numerous disasters in Brazil, resulting from the increase in temperature, with droughts and fires in different regions.

Between 2020 and 2022, in a unique way, deforestation and forest fires devastated biomes such as the Amazon Forest and the Pantanal, recognized as Natural Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserve by Unesco, drastically impacting the ecosystem; Likewise, the Cerrado and Caatinga - biomes recognized as National Heritage - have been abruptly affected with the suppression of their vegetation and biodiversity, in addition to the destruction of water courses and springs, essential for the traditional way of life of populations in these regions, also harming the supply of eight of the 12 hydrographic basins in the country.

The destruction of these biomes directly affects the ways of life, health and economy of indigenous peoples, quilombola communities, riverside dwellers, artisanal fishermen and extractivist populations. Thus, these should be the main actors heard in matters related to Land Demarcation, Agrarian Reforms and Growth Acceleration Programs.

Between 2021 and 2022, high rainfall directly impacted historic Brazilian cities, such as Petrópolis and Paraty, in Rio de Janeiro; Congonhas do Campo and Ouro Preto, in Minas Gerais; Recife, in Pernambuco, among others. The lack of application of resources destined to Municipal Risk Reduction Plans resulted in disasters that could be avoided or prevented mitigating actions that would minimize the damage caused to cultural heritage.

The lack of preparation of populations and public officials for emergency situations resulting from these natural disasters tend to exacerbate the impacts experienced in recent years with floods and the collapse of hillsides, mountains and barriers; that can directly affect memory institutions such as museums, libraries and archives, among others.

Altered ecosystems, habitats and ecotones produce changes in climate and water regime, whose current consequences are clearly perceptible and future ones are uncertain and unpredictable, and which seriously affect the health and well-being of residents.

The carbon account is collective and, therefore, everyone's responsibility. Those who believe they are protected in their crystal towers are wrong, as the effects of climate change and its social impacts affect everyone, both in the environmental sphere and in relation to economic and political issues. The main impact of these climate changes is happening on the health of the planet and on the health of the people who inhabit it, with no regard for social, cultural or economic differences.

In view of the questions raised, CCH-ICOMOS BR recommends:

  1. Strengthening the commitment and leadership of the Brazilian State with the Paris Agreement (2015);

  2. The generation of National Action Plans related to Climate Change, from the federal to the local scale, which can coordinate the singularities of each territory that makes up Brazil from an integrated and holistic view;

  3. The establishment of governmental and intergovernmental Risk Management Programs for Material and Intangible Cultural Heritage, built on the basis of expertise and the participatory action of communities, through collaborative and interoperable platforms;

  4. Risk mapping must be accompanied by mapping the population and the most exposed and vulnerable environmental and cultural areas, determining an Investment Plan for identification, georeferencing, monitoring, infrastructure, qualification and preparation of communities in relation to Environmental Disasters;

  5. The development and implementation of Strategic Planning and Management Coordinations with the establishment of Municipal Risk Reduction Plans in protected areas, their surroundings and areas of influence, considering not only the assets, but the ecosystems and villages that inhabit them, plans with budgets and schedules guaranteed and supervised by the responsible public bodies;

  6. Interlocution between ICOMOS and ICOM in Brazil, as well as between IPHAN, IBAMA and IBRAM, in relation to the survey of experts, and the availability of common methodologies and recommendations related to the SDGs and Climate Challenges, should be prepared with a focus on cultural heritage, including museums, collections, archaeological sites, built heritage, landscapes and places linked to intangible, symbolic and sensitive culture;

  7. Interlocution with the REED+ program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), with the C40 program (risk management in large cities), with the risk mapping system of the geological service and INPE, with the Green Cities program (led by IBAMA in the 50 capital cities of Brazil), with the mediation and coordination of CENAD (National Center for Risk and Disaster Management) and Civil Defense (at its different levels of government);

  8. Monitoring, exposing and criminalizing, through STF (Supreme Court) actions, harmful public policies that prevent, restrict and jeopardize the cultural production of indigenous peoples and traditional communities, their landscapes and territories, and their very existence;

  9. Highlight that all environmental affairs, issues and options are essentially political choices of UN Member States, including Brazil, and it is essential that the established governance structures create mechanisms for the fulfillment of all agreements, letters and recommendations related to Climate Challenges and to Protection of Cultural Heritage, signed and assumed as commitment by the nations.

Therefore, this Committee endorses and continues ICOMOS' commitment to the climate emergency since the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015. This commitment has been reflected in actions such as the creation of the Climate Change Working Group in 2017, in the recognition of cultural heritage as a vital agent for resilience with the approval of Resolution 19GA 2017/30 and in the institution's support for the launch of the Climate Heritage Network in 2019, for example.

The ICOMOS-BR Committee on Climate Change and Heritage proposes, as a priority, the creation of a Climate Heritage Network for Latin America, with special participation of the border countries of the Legal Amazon and the Pantanal - Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.


Brazil, November 4, 2022


SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND HERITAGE - ICOMOS/BRAZIL

[1] https://sdgs.un.org/goals

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