COP28 takes a step in right direction to recognise the role of culture and heritage in climate action


The COP28 conference saw significant strides in integrating cultural heritage, arts, and creative industries into the global climate agenda. While current climate planning in Europe often overlooks culture-based approaches, COP28 marked a shift in this paradigm as it witnessed the formation of the Group of Friends of Culture-Based Climate Action (GFCBCA) and the first multilateral High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Culture-based Climate Action. However, despite these strides, urgent action is needed to leverage culture-based climate action in this crucial decade when Paris Agreement goals hang in the balance. Elaborating a new Work Plan on Culture for the UN’s Climate Agency (the UNFCCC) is a crucial way forward.

Culture and heritage advocates aim to collaborate with the GFCBCA, UNFCCC, and COP presidencies to drive a paradigm shift. The goal is to secure a decision on Joint Work on Culture and Climate Action at COP29 in Baku, directing a one-year consultation on culture and climate change that would inform an inaugural UNFCCC Work Plan on Culture to be adopted at COP30 in Belém (Brazil). This initiative aims to leverage culture-based climate action just in time to help guide more ambitious national climate plans known as NDCs due in 2025.

Outcomes from COP28

Global Stocktake: The COP28 Global Stocktake (GST) aimed to evaluate progress towards Paris Agreement goals. While celebrated for the call to move away from fossil fuels, the GST overlooked the socio-cultural systems linked to the climate crisis and failed to include a reference to the socio-cultural enablers of climate action. This Culture Gap threatens the effectiveness of the GST as a guide to more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), necessitating urgent inclusion of culture in the UNFCCC work plan.

Global Goal on Adaptation Framework: The adoption of the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) marked a milestone, including cultural heritage protection as a thematic target for all nations as well as the valorisation of traditional knowledge. Elaboration of indicators and sources of finance for culture and adaptation are key next steps.

COP28 Loss and Damage Fund: COP28 operationalized the Loss and Damage Fund set-up at COP27, focusing on Non-Economic Loss, including culture and heritage impacts. The engagement of Cultural Voices in the Fund´s further elaboration is now crucial for its success.

Youth Engagement and Cultural Voices: Acting on climate is acting on intergenerational equity. COP28 emphasized enhancing youth participation and institutionalizing the role of the Presidency Youth Climate Champion, reflecting the global shift towards youth-led climate action and cultural preservation.

Key Global Initiatives

Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnership: The Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP), currently signed by 71 countries, was also launched at COP28. This was a groundbreaking moment as by signing onto CHAMP, national governments commit to enhancing cooperation with subnational governments, especially in regard to the revision of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2025. While bringing the CHAMP alive, national and subnational governments should work together to recognise the role of culture and heritage in accelerating climate action and collaborate accordingly.

Climate and Nature Synergies: The Joint Statement on Climate, Nature, and People at COP28 integrated biodiversity and climate objectives, emphasizing indigenous and local community involvement. This acknowledges the intertwined relationship between climate, biodiversity, and cultural heritage.

Climate Heritage Network’s Role and Collaborations

The Climate Heritage Network (CHN) lauds the creation of the Group of Friends of Culture-Based Climate Action (GFCBCA) and supports its initiative to embed culture in climate policy.

COP28 has proved a landmark in the global advocacy efforts to integrate culture in the climate change agenda. With the launch of the Group of Friends of Culture-Based Climate Action, we see political momentum to address the threat that climate change poses to culture and heritage, and to harness culture’s power for a faster, fairer, transition to a low carbon, just climate resilient future,” said HRH Princess Dana Firas of Jordan, Co-Chair, Culture at COP28 Working Group, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

With a focus on COP29 and COP30, CHN advocates for a Joint Work on Culture and Climate Action and the adoption of the first UNFCCC Work Plan on Culture at COP30 in Brazil. The Global Call to Put Cultural Heritage, Arts and Creative Industries at the Herat of Climate Action will be instrumental in reaching this objective. The ongoing Call to Action urges the public to acknowledge and champion the significance of culture in worldwide climate endeavors. This initiative seeks to rally individuals, networks, and organizations to support and raise awareness about the vital connection between heritage and climate action. With over 1500 organisations and leaders from diverse backgrounds including culture, arts, creative industries, environmental and climate sectors, activists, and scientists already endorsing the Call, it continues to gather momentum.

COP28 witnessed a significant step towards integrating culture into climate policy. The initiatives, partnerships, and calls for action reflect a growing global understanding of the indispensable role of culture in tackling the climate crisis. The collaboration between cultural voices, nations, and international bodies signifies a promising path towards inclusive and resilient climate strategies, essential for a sustainable future.

With special Thanks to ICLEI

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