The COP22 official logo features Marrakech’s iconic Menara Gardens Pavilion. The pavilion, built during the 16th century Saadi dynasty and adjacent basin are part of a sophisticated, ancient irrigation system that uses underground channels called qanats.
(Above) The people of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe are situated on the front line of Louisiana’s coastal land loss disaster and their ancestral home is sinking into the marsh.
President Barack Obama,and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands in front of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a joint ratification of the Paris climate change agreement on September 3, 2016.
The Paris Agreement framed a number of core issues that directly implicate cultural heritage and on which US historic preservationists have much to contribute. Key points of engagement for US/COMOS have included:
This year’s COP — COP22 — will look to build on the Paris Agreement, discussing how to operationalize and implement the Agreement. At COP21 counties made emission-cutting pledges. The US, for example, pledged to cut U.S. climate pollution by 26-28% from 2005 levels. At COP22 countries are expected to submit their finalized climate change commitments, known as nationally determined contributions (“NDCs). Details on how to monitor and verify the commitments as well as climate financing will also continue to be discussed, alongside plans to scale up the ambition of the initial NDCs.
As the implementation of the Paris Agreement takes center stage, the role of heritage is also expected to come into better focus. These include displacement and mobility, loss and damage, and mitigation. “Many of heritage’s key priorities will be on the table in Marrakech,” said ICOMOS’s Potts.
With so much at stake and so much work yet to be done, it only makes sense for the cultural heritage community to make COP22 a priority. US/ICOMOS is supporting ICOMOS in co-hosting two official COP22 side events. US/ICOMOS’s goal is to “connect the Paris Agreement-related work of US historic preservationists to the international climate change conversation,” said Bill Pencek, US/ICOMOS’s new Executive Director.
The first of these events addresses how cultural heritage can be conserved for, and used as a resource by, communities displaced by climate change. Entitled “Culture on the Move: Sea Level Rise, Cultural Heritage and Climate Mobility,” it is being led by the International National Trust Organization (INTO) and the International Polar Foundation.
The US contribution to the Mobility side event includes a presentation by National Geographic Explorer Victoria Herrmann on “America’s Eroding Edges” – a new collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation that explores what America stands to lose as US communities experience the impacts of climate change on homes, livelihoods, and cultures.
The second event, “World Heritage and Water after Paris: Traditional Knowledge, Climate Impacts & Resilience,” looks at resilience, cultural heritage and how traditional water knowledge can inform contemporary disaster risk reduction & climate adaptation. The session is being led by two long-time US/ICOMOS partners, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the InterEnvironment Institute as well as the SeaTrust Institute. ICOMOS Morocco is also participating. The event precedes the “Water and Heritage for the Future” conference planned by ICOMOS Netherlands for November 25-26.
The US/ICOMOS-NRF collaboration is being launched in advance of COP22 to enhance US/ICOMOS’s existing web and social media-based Climate Change and Cultural Heritage Knowledge Community. The effort is designed to better connect the US historic preservation community to the world of climate change action. “The impacts of climate change like sea level rise know no boundaries, which puts a premium on international collaboration among heritage professionals,” said US/ICOMOS Trustee Lisa Craig. As chief of historic preservation for Annapolis, MD, Craig helped launch the “Weather it Together” initiative designed to help her historic coastal city prepare for disasters like those associated with rising seas. This new collaboration creates an international outlet for NRF’s successful Keeping History Above Water project (#HistoryAboveWater) which has focused on the nexus between sea level rise and coastal heritage.
The collaboration’s first project, a countdown of 22 cultural heritage #ClimateActions leading up to COP22 is available via www.usicomos.org and on twitter at @usicomosClimate.