The historic environment can play a vital role in tackling climate change, according to heritage organisations. In particular, the sensitive re-use of historic buildings is crucial if the UK is to meet the new tougher target of cutting 80% of all carbon emissions by 2050.
At the launch of Heritage Counts 2008, the annual report of the historic environment, heritage organisations called on the Government and local authorities to recognise that the historic environment is part of the solution to tackling climate change and that its share of carbon emissions can be reduced by sensitive improvements. Statistics shows that houses in England built before 1919 account for approximately 5% of all the country's carbon emissions.
Speaking at the launch at the London Transport Museum, Sir Barry Cunliffe, interim Chairman of English Heritage, said: "The nation's built heritage is a finite and precious resource and we must recognise that the re-use and recycling of older buildings is both responsible and sustainable.
"Although some older homes are currently less energy efficient than some newer ones, solutions do exist to make them more energy efficient. Rising to this challenge, however, demands care. We need to develop and share approaches that avoid unnecessary damage to the special value and qualities of the historic environment. More Government policies that work towards changing human behaviour in energy use are also necessary because that is the area that will make the crucial difference."
Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of The National Trust said: "The historic environment is often amongst the first to experience problems associated with climate change and, just like any other home, work or meeting place, older buildings can be an important part of the solution. Every little contribution we can make to cutting carbon use can make a real difference.
"From renewable energy generation through to improving energy efficiency, Heritage Counts gives a compelling picture of how older buildings can be sensitively adapted to make a positive contribution. Moreover, they can inspire millions of people who visit historic properties to take action themselves. We call on the government to recognise the valuable role the heritage sector can play, and is playing, in tackling this urgent problem."
Heritage Counts 2008 emphasises the active role heritage organisations can play to help society pursue a low carbon economy - from mitigating the share of carbon emissions produced by historic buildings through advocating measures to improve energy efficiency of older buildings, championing and experimenting with new technologies on historic properties they manage to inspiring the public to change their behaviour on energy consumption.
Heritage Counts is published by English Heritage on behalf of the Historic Environment Review Executive Committee and the Regional Historic Environment Forums. It is a comprehensive overview of the key statistics, trend development and research related to England's heritage.
Other highlights from this year's report include:
- Significant increases in heritage participation among all adults (69.5% to 71.1%), black and ethnic minorities (50.0% to 54.6%) and people with limiting disabilities or illness (58.4% to 61.5%) between July - Dec 2005 and July - Dec 2007
- Continuing emphasis on workforce development with the Heritage Lottery Fund's £7 million bursary scheme which offers placements across the sector and the launch of English Heritage's Historic Environment Traineeship
- The number of conservation area consents rose from 3004 in 2002/3 to 3626 in 2007/8, an increase of 20.7
- Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund declined by 28% and English Heritage grants by 27% in real terms between 2002/03 and 2007/08. This amounts to a total reduction in real terms of £100 million. Heritage Lottery Fund funding will fall by a further 43% in real terms between 2007/08 and 2012/13.
For copies of the report, please download it from HeritageCounts.
You should follow me on twitter here.