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Responses to Climate Change

Historic England's approach to responding to the challenge of how climate change effects the historic environment.

Climate change is a risk multiplier. It exacerbates less-significant threats, creating new and unforeseen challenges.  There are two areas of response to climate change:  

Heritage is not only affected by the impacts of climate change but also by our responses to it e.g. flood defences, sustainable energy generation and improving energy efficiency of buildings. 

Mitigation

Mitigation involves taking action to increase energy efficiency and sustainability. Improving these will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and heighten our ability to manage additional mean global temperature rise. The UK Government encourages organisations to limit emissions by using fuel more efficiently and insulating their homes and businesses. Historic England have advice on how to do this whilst minimising negative impacts upon the historic environment: for instance advice on saving energy in your older home.

Adaptation

Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause. Early action will build in safeguards that will help to protect heritage around the country. Adaptation strategies are important for everyone, and are being discussed at every level of government, all around the world.

Historic England is helping the UK heritage community to address this issue, by carrying out research and analysis on the distribution, scale and timing of potential threats. We use world class research to create risk assessments for everything from coastal flooding to the World Heritage Sites of Stonehenge and Avebury. You can find details of previous research on environmental threats carried out 2011-2015 from our research results pages.

We have also produced our own Historic England adaptation plan, submitted to Government as part of the National Adaptation Reporting Power.

You can also see previous examples of adaption in a climate change themed edition of Conservation Bulletin.  
 

An aerial view of flooding around Muchelney, Somerset
An aerial view of flooding around Muchelney, Somerset. © Historic England, Damian Grady

Both mitigation and adaptation have a role in building resilience into our historic environment. Helping the historic environment to be resilient in the face of climate change involves understanding potential risks, identifying possible solutions and, when a course of action has been chosen, helping to monitor impact and manage future outcomes.

 

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