As part of the so-called "Open Method for Coordination", an EU expert group was convened and a cooperation framework for the experts of the EU member states offered to deal with issues climate change poses regarding the preservation of the European cultural heritage. At the invitation of Christian Hanus, head of the Department for Building and Environment and a member of the working group, the group will come together for its ninth and final working meeting at the University for Continuing Education Krems from 28 to 30 April 2002. Doris Berger-Grabner, member of the Federal Council, will officially welcome the group on behalf of Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Governor of the Province of Lower Austria.

More than 50 experts from 25 EU Member States and associated countries work in the OMC group under the leadership of Johanna Leissner (Chair) and the support from the European Commission (Cultural Policy Unit), Anne Grady (Head Cultural Heritage Advisor/Principal Officer). The focus is to take stock of the state of play in the Member States where and how climate change impacts on cultural heritage are integrated in the mainstream policies; furthermore, to identify existing gaps and structural deficiencies. Central issues in times of climate change are energy efficiency of historic buildings, design and transformation of cultural landscapes, and the safety of cultural heritage under extreme climatic conditions. The aim pursued is to continuously explore recommendations in this regard as well as to exchange experiences.

“The complexity of the challenge is to keep European cultural heritage usable in an adequate and durable form thus the impact of climate change is inevitable, and to preserve its characteristics and values. We are pleased in being able to contribute our expertise from corresponding research activities. The working visit the OMC group pays Krems is a great honor to all of us!,” says Prof Christian Hanus.

Tasks of the Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Climate Change

Experts nominated from ministries of culture, and from cultural and research institutions of the EU member countries, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, are in Krems due to an arranged EU working plan for culture 2019-2022 to share and identify best practices examples and innovative measures to protect tangible and intangible cultural heritage in relation to climate change. Current and future impacts of climate change on cultural heritage - including cultural landscapes – are examined and appropriate protection measures are discussed. In its work, the OMC group focuses on building the resilience of cultural heritage in the face of a changing environment while avoiding maladaptation.

After taking stock, the OMC members prepare a report. Contents include proposals for future research, recommendations for preparedness, capacity building, and disaster risk reduction, and guidelines on how cultural heritage can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. “Cultural heritage is threatened by climate change at an unprecedented speed and scale. However, currently cultural heritage does not receive targeted attention in the strategic climate adaptation plans of most European countries. Therefore, the OMC group’s recommendations shall help to fill this gap,” says Johanna Leissner.

The OMC group's recommendations are intended to support countries’ administrations in their policy makings and to encourage action in line with common European goals. By highlighting how important it is to protect cultural heritage from the impact climate change poses, the groundwork for planning climate action at the European and national levels is laid. “We are working hard to ensure the OMC group's recommendations will be comprehensive so they will be interpreted effectively and implemented on both a larger and smaller scale. In addition, we are ensuring the results will be substantiated in terms of content, including 83 best practice case studies, which along with the report, will be circulated widely. I have every confidence that we will meet these requirements during our final meeting,” emphasises Anne Grady.

Case studies and exchange

In Austria, the preservation of cultural heritage as a public task has a traditionally high priority. In this context, the concept of mobile flood protection in Krems as well as the complex challenges in the Benedictine Abbey of Melk are discussed. Furthermore, the Ministry of Arts, Culture, Public Service and Sports and the Office of the Provincial Government of Lower Austria are exchanging their experiences on a regular base.

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