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Heritage sector bodies declare environmental emergency as public protest in London begins

07 Oct 2019 News

Charities and individuals from the heritage sector have declared an environmental emergency in the wake of mass campaigning from the likes of Extinction Rebellion, which starts two weeks of protests in London today.

By making a public declaration, the heritage group aims to kick start a sector-wide movement to address the threat that an environmental emergency poses to cultural heritage worldwide.

Heritage Declare, the group behind the declaration, said in a statement: “The heritage sector has worked on climate issues for years but is only now beginning to recognise the sheer scale of the crisis. 

“Time is running out to save ourselves and our cultural and natural heritage from a catastrophe of our own making.”

Heritage charities have 'a huge platform to shift public opinion'

The group said the heritage sector had a huge platform to shift public opinion and action on climate and ecological issues.

It said this was especially true among sections of the public who were not “naturally sympathetic to eco-activism”. 

The declaration from charities, which include Cultura Trust and The Regeneration Practice, has 10 commitments, such as shifting conservation priorities and rethinking heritage tourism.

It also commits heritage charities to “de-toxifying the sector” and pursuing ethical finance.

It said the declaration “should be the end of business as usual and the start of a new reaction to the emergency”.

A shift towards environmental investment priorities

Elsewhere, research from global investment manager Newton Investment Management suggests that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are becoming more of a priority for charities with investments.

Its survey of 102 UK charities with investment assets of £14bn shows an increase of 21 percentage points in charities saying ESG engagement had a positive impact on investments, compared to last year.

Alan Goodwin, head of investment relationship management at Newton, said: “From our conversations with charities, we know this shift towards greater ESG engagement is likely to accelerate over the coming years, as charities would rather engage with businesses to change their behaviour than shut the door completely.”

70 per cent of charities said engagement was the best approach to ensuring climate change factors were considered.

On the other hand, 24 per cent said divesting appropriately was the best strategy.

64 per cent of charities said it was their responsibility to consider climate change, with a third of them under pressure from stakeholders to do so.

Meanwhile, over half of charities (57 per cent) were using policies to exclude investments on an ethical basis, under increasing risks to reputation.

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