Libraries in the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper
25 March 2021
The European Cultural Heritage Green Paper, officially launched on Monday, 22 March, seeks to put Europe’s shared heritage at the heart of the European Green New Deal.
It was produced by European cultural heritage organisation Europa Nostra in close cooperation with the International Council of Museums and Sites (ICOMOS) and the Climate Heritage Network, with the input of members of the European Heritage Alliance and the support of the European Investment Bank Institute.
IFLA was proud to have had the opportunity to provide input and feedback on the paper during its development. As cultural and memory institutions, libraries have an essential role in placing culture at the heart of Europe’s sustainable future.
In this article, we offer an introduction to the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper and ideas on how libraries can take part.
The European Green New Deal
First presented in December 2019, the European Green Deal seeks to make Europe the planet’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
It is a plan for the European Union’s economic sustainability, turning the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation into opportunities, while ensuring the transition towards carbon neutrality is just and inclusive for all. This will require participation from all sectors.
See IFLA’s blog on the wider Green Deal.
Culture in the European Green New Deal
Culture is essential to the success of the European Green Deal. Overcoming the enormous challenge of climate change takes resilience, creativity, and most importantly, collective action. Therefore, climate action must resonate in the hearts and minds of all people.
The European Cultural Heritage Green Paper provides a set of case studies, essays, and recommendations for policymakers and cultural heritage actors on integrating culture into the priority areas of the European Green Deal. It makes a case for cultural heritage as a driver of climate action and catalyst for positive change, while fostering the senses of belonging and social inclusion that are necessary for just transition.
Finally, it expresses the dedication of the cultural sector towards the goals of the European Green New Deal and opens the door to strengthening future collaboration.
What does this mean for libraries?
IFLA is invested in expanding and promoting the role of libraries as vectors of sustainable development and climate action. For an example, see our brief on Libraries and the Paris Agreement.
As free-to-access public spaces, as well as memory institutions and champions for access to information and lifelong learning, libraries are well placed within communities to be hubs for climate education, training, and public awareness.
Here are some areas from the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper where libraries can have an impact:
Informing Transformative Change
While climate science tells us that mitigation and adaption are necessary, it does not tell us what will work best in any given human system. Learning from the cultural knowledge of both past and current societies can help provide answers for how transformative change can be integrated within the context of cultural and social norms.
Europe’s libraries hold knowledge in their physical and digital collections that can help inform climate science, mitigation, and adaption strategies, and illustrates how past societies have adapted to change.
Supporting the Creative Economy
European creative industries and craft-makers contribute to the sustainable, local, and circular economy goals of the European Green New Deal. Empowering local creators and craftspeople can help re-localise production-consumption processes (using more sustainable techniques) and contribute to sustainable tourism.
Libraries can share knowledge on local craft traditions, offer craftspeople and artists access to resources and services (virtual and in-person), and use their spaces in communities to help creative economy actors reach new audiences and markets.
Encouraging Participation and Co-Creation in Transition Planning
Libraries are free-to-access public spaces. They are platforms to bring community together to learn about local issues and take part in participatory policy making.
In this role, libraries and other cultural institutions can act as spaces for climate empowerment on the local level. This includes raising awareness of policy changes, encouraging social dialogue, inspiring voluntary participation, and involving community actors in transition planning.
Activating Climate Education and Training
Libraries are champions of lifelong learning for all. Creativity and the arts present new opportunities to connect deeply with people, both within and outside the formal education system. Cultural heritage experiences can grow a shared sense of identity, values, cohesion, and responsibility – building capacity and will for ambitious climate action.
Libraries can take part through education, communication, and training programmes regarding green practices, climate change mitigation and adaptation in the community, and the role of culture and heritage in climate action.
IFLA looks forward to continuing to work with our members in Europe and beyond, as well as our partners in the cultural sector, to support the role of cultural heritage and memory institutions in climate action.
We encourage our members to use the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper and the examples it gives in their advocacy as evidence of the vital role of libraries in building a sustainable future.