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Edinburgh World Heritage/News/Edinburgh World Heritage publishes climate emergency manifesto

Edinburgh World Heritage publishes climate emergency manifesto

18th September 2020

Rebecca Leary

To mark Scottish Climate Week, we are today publishing a manifesto which calls for the historic environment to be at the heart of the city’s response to the climate emergency through a 10-point programme aimed at policy makers, experts and residents.

Data from the Met Office on the effects of climate change in Edinburgh show that we can expect increased temperatures, more rainfall and winter precipitation, as well as more extreme events such as an increase in periods of intense rainfall and higher wind speeds. Wetter, more extreme weather will have a damaging affect on our historic buildings, for example in increased stone erosion and growth of vegetation in gutters and on roofs. In early 2019, the City of Edinburgh Council pledged that the capital will become carbon neutral by 2030. The Edinburgh World Heritage climate manifesto addresses the challenge of meeting this goal, while also stressing the importance of preserving the ‘heritage values’ of the Old and New Towns World Heritage Site.

Published against a backdrop of changing weather patterns in Edinburgh, the manifesto points out ways in which Edinburgh’s traditional buildings – such as tenements, houses, shops and public buildings, can be sensitively improved to both reduce energy consumption and better adapt to changing weather patterns.

The Edinburgh World Heritage climate manifesto

  1. The historic environment and our traditional buildings are part of the solution to effectively dealing with the climate emergency.
  2. Many of the measures that will be taken to address the climate emergency are also an opportunity to strengthen the conservation, understanding and appreciation of Old & New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site.
  3. The historic environment and our traditional buildings are inherently sustainable.
  4. Replacing traditional buildings with new ones is generally both wasteful and unsustainable.
  5. Regular maintenance of traditional buildings can both mitigate the effects of a changing climate and improve energy efficiency.
  6. Sensitive interventions proven to improve the energy efficiency of traditional buildings are an effective way to reduce carbon emissions.
  7. Technical solutions designed for modern buildings can be inappropriate for traditional structures and can even cause harm and reduce the building’s efficiency.
  8. Our public realm and green spaces are an integral part of the design of our historic city and can play an important role in our response to the climate emergency. Their unique character should be preserved when new interventions are proposed.
  9. Local communities and residents should be empowered and supported to play an active role in delivering solutions to tackle climate change.
  10. Proposed changes to our traditional buildings and public realm, must be based on conservation best practice and adapted to Edinburgh’s unique historic environment. Fully understanding the significance of the historic environment can help unlock the potential for such change.

Christina Sinclair, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage commented that: ‘the traditional buildings in Edinburgh are inherently sustainable given they were constructed using mainly natural local materials and are well adapted to local weather conditions. With regular maintenance, appropriate conservation, and the introduction of sensitive energy efficiency measures which are proven to work in the local environment, Edinburgh’s wonderful historic environment can be at the heart of the city’s plans to address the challenge of climate change. Historic buildings are not a barrier to sustainability – they are a critical part of the solution’.

Read the full climate emergency manifesto response here.

Edinburgh World Heritage also has an existing body of free resources available to the public, including a series of energy efficiency guides for residents and property owners, as well as The Guide to Building Management in a Changing Climate, published by Edinburgh World Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh ADAPTS in 2019, which provides step-by-step advice and guidance on how to identify damage and carry out repairs to keep properties wind and watertight.

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