It has been seven years since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) first made the arresting declaration that climate change poses a ‘severe threat’ to future sustainable development. It also stated that, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C, we need rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure, requiring ambitious and well-integrated adaptation– mitigation–development pathways that deviate fundamentally from high-carbon, business-as-usual futures.

We need to acknowledge that we are in a turning point in history. Human-caused carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must be significantly reduced by 2030 with net zero emissions reach by 2050, if not sooner. However, the world remains dangerously off course in realising the rapid and transformative change needed to hold global warming to 1.5C ° and avoid catastrophic loss and damage, and is facing a pervasive failure to imagining desirable ways of living not wedded to the carbon economy nor to its related systems of exploitation of people and nature.  

We urgently need action from all actors. Action based on a change on our production and consumption, and how do we relate to nature, as well as our priorities to achieve caring systems. These actions should be supported by inclusive climate planning processes, engaging Indigenous Peoples, women, youth, disabled and older persons, and including culture and heritage as an enabling condition for transformative climate action, which is nonetheless often overlooked in climate planning and science.

Moreover, despite the fact that a growing body of research and practice advocate for culture as a pillar of sustainable development, some culture-based ‘sustainable development’ efforts are continuing along the very business as-usual trajectories that have given us climate change. Creative, cultural, and heritage voices are urgently needed for doing the opposite.

Andrew Potts, Coordinator of the Climate Heritage Network. UCLG Culture Summit in Izmir, Semptember, 2021.

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