Culture: a Cornerstone for Sustainable Development

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Culture and cultural heritage have unique abilities to imagine and push forward sustainability efforts, especially at the local scale. Not only can cultural assets be a source of creative collaboration and strengthened social cohesion, but they can also be included in planning to create livable, inclusive communities.

The link between culture and the transition to a liveable, equitable future has long been coming into focus. On a global scale, Agenda 2030 – the United Nations resolution that first articulated global Sustainable Development Goals – integrates culture and heritage into Target 11.4. Europe has also made strides to incorporate culture into sustainable development through initiatives like the New European Bauhaus and the European Green Deal. But, this trend needs to go further, such that culture is fully recognised as a tool for driving circular economy initiatives, rethinking resource and energy consumption, protecting historic buildings, and forging a just transition.

Culture is intertwined with the fabric of our communities; as such, it is necessarily a part of transitions to a sustainable future.

In a brand-new briefing paperCulture and Cultural Heritage: A key asset for sustainable development and transition in cities, ICLEI makes the case for culture as a key part of sustainable development conversations, and provides opportunities to strengthen the link between sustainability and cultural heritage – opportunities as diverse as our shared cultural assets themselves: from repurposing abandoned or vacant buildings, to protecting historic areas from climate hazards, or even crafting new architectural and urban planning practices based on creative engagement strategies.

Some of the main recommendations of the briefing paper suggest thinking holistically and addressing environmental and socio-cultural issues together; applying sustainability goals to historic buildings; pursuing training on the cultural elements of climate action; and creating pilot projects that meaningfully engage the cultural sector in sustainability efforts.

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