My first day at the climate change Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris was one of acclimatisation and finding out where things where. Coffee sellers – check, travel pass – check. Press rooms where groups of nations would be committing to stuff – check.
I had gone there as part of the International National Trust Organisation (INTO) delegation to make sure issues affecting heritage, conservation and culture would be heard by the decision makers working on mitigation and adaptation to climate change. We wanted to share our own approaches but also learn from others. If you’re not inside the process sharing and learning then no matter how much you complain after the event if you were not there and didn’t like the solutions then you only have yourself to blame.
On the INTO stand we had Canadian Indigenous Indians, Mongolian representatives, African ministerial representatives and so on. All with one thing in common which was one of ‘finding a way’ to deal with the climate change threat.
The big cheeses were in town and all seemed to be talking about ‘future generations, once in a lifetime, have to do stuff now, moral obligation’ which were all good scene setters. Clauses were debated, plenary after plenary, drafty drafts circulated. Soon you realise policy people need doers or the decisions reached are not grounded in practicality. Policy without practice is like a bike without wheels.
I took some time out from the conference centre in the north-east of Paris to present at an event organised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) at their HQ on the Champs-Élysées. Three of the category heads from the scientific intergovernmental body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), came along to listen to us; quite an elite crowd you might say. The purpose of the event was to get heritage culture into the IPCC reporting structure and for them to recognise, measure and mitigate climate change impact on this little visited area of the subject. I presented on the mitigation and adaptation work the National Trust in Wales are undertaking. We were then invited to present and discuss the issue of developing a climate change assessment publicly on the UNESCO stand.
Change management is at the core of conservation and conservation is about coping and managing with change and adaptation. Change in conservation is good, bad and indifferent. Understanding, influencing, adapting, sharing and so on in order to hand our special places on to future generations is what we (NT) do and always have done.
For example in the last decade of NT insurance claims have increased several fold (this is one of our many canaries in the mine to tell us we are getting more frequent storms). The excellent NT update on climate change impacts published a couple of weeks ago is worth a read to see how some of our special places have been affected.
As time wore on people started to look more tired but there was still the feeling that ‘we are here to get the job done’ rather than going through the motions. I am looking forward to going home now but feel the job is not finished so would have liked to stay to the end of the week. I have to remind myself I have a life away from here. Whilst in Paris, a son lost his first tooth, there were two family birthdays and my daughter fractured her arm, so I am looking forward to going back to Wales.