Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor to address you today, here, at the cradle of international cooperation, on an issue of utmost importance and value: the role of education in protecting our cultural heritage from the risks associated with climate change.
Extreme weather conditions, global warming, species extinction, the rise of sea level, the overall volatility of our natural environment, may certainly harm our precious artefacts, but at the same time may also cause mass population displacement. Climate change has undoubtedly placed in jeopardy both the natural and human capital. As for the latter, both material pieces of cultural heritage, such as monuments of global significance, but also our nonmaterial, intangible inheritance, including our customs, traditions and local practices are at risk due to environmental degradation. Human cultural heritage, the living testimony of our common history, is in danger.
Now, how can education respond to these challenges?
The United Nations have already highlighted the role of education both in raising awareness and building the capacity for climate change management. The integration of the UN climate change objectives, commitments and Sustainable Development Goals as well as UNESCO’s programs, policies and recommendations for national policies, are key if we are to implement a global, coordinated and result-oriented strategy. From our point of view, education is a crucial element of the response to climate change, it can and must contribute to the protection of our cultural and natural heritage. How? Here are a few indicative ways:
- By providing information to students and raising awareness on the perils that climate change entails through primary, secondary and higher education curricula,
- By underlining the significance and vulnerability of world heritage, which, according to UNESCO, “is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations”,
- By life-long training of decision makers, site managers, teachers and other stakeholders, in order to cultivate sensitivity and capacity to prevent and adapt to natural phenomena, and to spread this knowledge to the public opinion,
- Last but not least. By preparing the new generation to address future challenges and help to reverse the damage. What is most important is to equip the youth with the educational tools necessary, such as cutting-edge technology, scientific culture, skills and knowledge, in order to adapt to the changing conditions, but also reverse this downward spiral we are on. For this to happen, we need to accentuate the global impact of local actions, shape future behaviors and attitudes and immerse the youth even more in ethical values such as solidarity towards the next generations, altruism, responsibility, and critical thinking.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is beyond doubt that education can play a critical role in tackling the impact of environmental degradation and mitigating its threat on our cultural heritage. Governments across the world must realize that climate change is our common most urgent challenge - and so should communities and individuals. Education is essential for people to understand and respond to climate change; it must increase “climate literacy“, cultivate sustainable behaviors and help us adapt to the new conditions. We can make it happen, together.