Washington, D.C. – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) members today adopted a Climate Change and Historic Preservation Policy Statement. The policy was developed to acknowledge the important connections between climate change and historic properties and urge federal and nonfederal stakeholders to take steps to address these impacts at all levels of planning.                                

We have no time to lose in planning for, mitigating, and responding to the impacts of increased climate risks to the places we care about,” ACHP Chair Sara C. Bronin said. “The federal government must take the lead in developing policies, promoting research, and educating the public about the issues faced by our historic and culturally significant places.

Historic buildings and neighborhoods, archaeological sites, and culturally important landscapes and places are at risk from a broad range of potential climate impacts. Also, among the historic properties affected by climate changes are sacred sites, landscapes, and other properties of religious and cultural significance to Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations (NHOs). 

The policy statement was developed by the ACHP’s Climate Change Task Force, led by Vice Chairman Jordan Tannenbaum over the course of nine months and included listening sessions and other outreach efforts with states, historic preservation stakeholders, and Indian Tribes and NHOs. The proceedings recognized the disproportionate impact of climate change on disadvantaged and underserved communities.

Some of the major recommendations of the policy statement are the following:

  • Consideration of impacts to historic properties should be an integral part of climate adaptation planning and implementation and disaster planning and response.
  • Survey and identification of historic properties should be prioritized to focus on areas with the highest potential for climate impacts and where there has been limited previous survey.
  • Emphasis should be placed on reusing, retrofitting, and enhancing energy efficiency of older and historic buildings to reduce carbon emissions that result from the construction of new buildings.
  • Permitting and environmental review of clean energy projects and climate-friendly transportation projects should be expedited while still ensuring full consideration of potential impacts to historic properties.
  • Creative solutions should be encouraged to help communities accept and contend with the reality that many historic properties will have to be altered if they are to survive climate change, and many others inevitably will be lost to climate impacts.
  • When planning to address climate impacts on historic properties, adaptation options grounded in Indigenous Knowledge should be sought out and incorporated.
  • Federal preservation programs and standards should align with climate mitigation and adaptation goals, and federal guidance on the treatment of historic properties threatened by climate change should be expanded and more flexibly applied.

“The impacts of climate change on historic properties are so wide-ranging and potentially severe that collaboration among federal, Tribal, state, and local government agencies is essential,” Chair Bronin said. “Federal agencies can take a leadership role through their own collaborative work and by encouraging such work through funding and technical assistance.” 

The ACHP will work to promote implementation of the policy statement’s principles and to embed consideration of historic properties within the federal government’s climate change response. The ACHP will advocate for and support development of guidance and informational resources, enhanced consideration of climate impacts in historic preservation programs, and research on key topics.