Students present “Young Climate Action for World Heritage” at the “denkmal” trade fair

15 students from UNESCO Associated Schools and other schools from Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland participated in the conference “World.Heritage.Climate - World Heritage Education for Climate-conscious Sustainable Development” on 24.11.2022 as part of the program of the denkmal Leipzig trade fair and presented the project "Young Climate Action for World Heritage". The conference was organized by the Saxon State Office for Monument Preservation and the Saxon State Ministry for Regional Development in cooperation with the IHS, the German Commission for UNESCO and the German National Committee of ICOMOS. The aim was to discuss World Heritage education with a focus on climate change with experts and the young generation. More than 100 participants from the fields of monument and nature conservation, World Heritage, climate research, education and pedagogy participated and brought in their different perspectives. The conference was not the only one at the denkmal fair dedicated to the topic of climate change and heritage. However, it was characterized by the high participation of the generation that will have to take responsibility for heritage in the future and deal with the consequences of climate change.

In her introductory lecture, Dr. Johanna Leissner (Fraunhofer EU Office Brussels) described the drastic effects of climate change on cultural and natural heritage and highlighted case studies of particularly sustainable action and protection concepts at heritage sites. Then students and young volunteers from the project "Young Climate Action for World Heritage", the school program "denkmal aktiv" and the initiative "European Heritage Volunteers" took over the podium and presented their own projects on the topic of heritage and climate change. What was remarkable about this panel was the interdisciplinary expertise that the young people had acquired in their projects and confidently presented to the experts in the audience, their self-evident cross-border cooperation, and their commitment to the protection of heritage, especially in view of the threats posed by climate change. Chemical formulas for the preservation of historic shell limestone, tree dieback and droughts in gardens and parks as well as their motivation to participate in World Heritage were presented by them in an equally authentic and competent way, which met with great positive response from the audience. The conference was moderated by the journalist Victoria Reichelt, who succeeded well in establishing the intergenerational dialogue.

In the afternoon, Dr. Antje Brock (Institut Futur/FU Berlin) demonstrated the potential of World Heritage sites as learning sites from an educational theory perspective, which can make the temporal and spatial dimension of sustainability tangible and enable holistic learning in the sense of Education for Sustainable Development. The conference closed with a fishbowl discussion, in which the questions of the day were examined from various perspectives by the discussants who took turns on the podium.

A publication of the conference results by the organizers is currently being planned.

Background to the conference:

Along with protection and conservation, education is one of the core mandates of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. By signing the Convention, the States Parties undertake "to strengthen the appreciation and respect of the [...] cultural and natural heritage by their peoples, in particular through educational and information programs" (UNESCO 1972, Art. 27). Nevertheless, there is still a need for action in the implementation of the educational mandate, especially with regard to the complex challenges in the protection of the World Heritage, for example due to climate change, as well as the increasingly demanded participatory education and involvement formats for diverse target groups.

Against this background, the Free State of Saxony initiated a series of conferences on the topic of World Heritage education in 2016 as part of the "denkmal" trade fair in Leipzig. The series aims to shed light on the topic theoretically and practically, to strengthen networks between educational science and World Heritage, and to stimulate joint exchange on concepts, formats, and potentials of World Heritage education. With its expertise in the field of Heritage Studies and World Heritage education, the Institute Heritage Studies supports the conception, implementation and evaluation of the conference alongside other institutions such as the German Commission for UNESCO and the German National Committee of ICOMOS, among others. The conference "World.Heritage.Climate" was the fourth event in the conference series.

All photos: Saxon Ministry for Regional Development, Photo: Stefan Schacher