We're thrilled to announce that our World Heritage Leadership (WHL) programme, an ICCROM-IUCN joint initiative, is part of a consortium that has been awarded funding by the Belmont Forum for a research project on establishing a methodology to systematically assess climate change-related risks to heritage. 

Heritage sites are under increasing threat from climate change. From rising sea levels to extreme weather events, these irreplaceable treasures face many risks. To better understand the challenges posed by climate change, a new collaborative project, called SASCHA for short, has been launched with generous funding granted through a competitive global call for proposals.  

Photo by Koen Swiers: https://www.pexels.com/photo/icebergs-on-body-of-water-9529880/

Multiscale approaches and scalability within climate change — Heritage Risk Assessment (SASCHA) project   

The SASCHA team's primary goal is to develop innovative methods for understanding climate change risks to heritage sites. These methods will be designed for multiscale analysis, meaning they can be applied to both local and global contexts. This approach aims to bridge the gap between local knowledge and global data, ensuring that vulnerability assessments are relevant to specific locations while also considering broader trends.  

The project brings together a team of leading experts from: 

  • ICCROM, through the World Heritage Leadership (WHL) programme 
  • University College London (UK) 
  • NIKU - Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (Norway) 
  • Natural Hazards Control and Assessment (NHAZCA) – A startup of Sapienza University of Roma (Italy) 
  • North Carolina State University (USA) 
  • Arizona State University (USA) 
  • English Heritage Trust (UK) 
  • Municipality of Ventotene (Italy) 

Achieving climate-relevant heritage outcomes through tangible outputs 

The project will achieve its goals through several key steps: 

  • Developing operationalized indicators to measure and monitor climate change-related impacts on heritage 
  • Creating a stakeholder engagement protocol to ensure diverse perspectives and cultural contexts are considered when identifying relevant climate threats. 
  • Building a tool to help stakeholders determine the most appropriate assessment approaches for different spatial scales. 
  • Exploring the potential challenges and opportunities of operationalizing this approach for climate change and heritage risk assessment. 

By achieving its goals, SASCHA will not only empower local communities to protect their cherished cultural heritage but also contribute to a global discussion. The project's findings will be valuable for supporting effective policy development and heritage management practices related to World Heritage sites. 

Funded by leading international initiatives 

The SASCHA research project is one of 16 awardees of the Joint Programming Initiatives on Cultural Heritage and Global Change (JPI CH), Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe (JPI Climate), and the Belmont Forum. This prestigious funding recognizes the project's potential to significantly contribute to safeguarding heritage in the face of climate change. 

Our current work's overlap with SASCHA's goals 

SASCHA aligns with our existing efforts, such as the WHL Module on Resilience, the revision of the World Heritage Resource Manual on "Managing Disaster Risk" and the "Climate Action Toolkit for World Heritage". This collaborative approach ensures that SASCHA builds on and feeds into existing knowledge to create a robust and impactful framework for safeguarding heritage in a changing climate. 

The project, which began in June 2024, will run through May 2025.