The Netherlands Unprepared to Protect Cultural Heritage Against Climate Change

Over 6000 Dutch national heritage sites are already at risk of flooding as thousands others are affected by subsidence due to lowering ground water levels. Although swift action is needed to protect Dutch cultural heritage from the effects of climate change, the Dutch government's "national climate change adaptation policy is currently not explicitly addressing climate change impacts on cultural heritage" according to dr. Sandra Fatorić (Technical University Delft).

Having mapped and analyzed the risks of over 63.000 heritage structures in the Netherlands over the last two years, dr. Fatorić' research shows that draught affects over 12.000 historic (farm)houses and churches due to their wooden foundations. However, “cultural landscapes and hydraulic engineering works such as dikes, lock gates, pumping stations, and bridges can also be affected”. Even though initiatives can be found at local levels to mitigate the risk posed by climate change, on a national level the Dutch government has not formulated a strategy to protect its cultural heritage. Among other reasons, dr. Fatorić sees the lack of a detailed risk analysis as the culprit: “If you don’t know what risks a historic building faces, it is difficult to protect or adapt it against climate change.”

Seeking to incentivize such a risk analysis, Fatorić work, supported by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, has led to the publication of three papers, each focusing on a different facet of the problem. The first maps the risks climate change poses to Dutch cultural heritage (both tangible and intangible). This first of a kind investigation is meant as a stopgap and stresses the necessity of a more detailed study. The seconds addresses the different barriers or obstacles in climate adaptation policymaking, needed to protect cultural heritage. The last analyses how historic buildings, landscapes, archaeological sites, traditional practices and skills provide benefits to current and future climate adaptation and mitigation actions. Fatorić: “Cultural heritage is a valuable source of knowledge. We can learn from the past how to deal with changing climate and environment.”





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Original Article BKTU Delft