In this section, the main findings organised by perceived barriers to adapting cultural heritage to climate change in the Netherlands together with possible interdependencies among barriers, and strategies to overcome them, are presented.
Barriers to adapting cultural heritage to climate change
Experts identified a total of 337 barriers which were synthesised into 15 distinct barrier subthemes, see Fig. 2. These subthemes are further organised in the following categories: (a) institutional barriers, (b) technical barriers, (c) socio-cultural barrier, and (d) financial barrier (Fig. 2).
The most frequently reported barrier was a lack of climate change adaptation policy for cultural heritage (n = 97 mentions). Experts noted that while clear national, provincial, and local institutional frameworks and policies for climate or spatial adaptation of various sectors exist, there is no specific regulation or policy for diverse cultural heritage types. This included the lack of formal technical guidelines or plans for appropriate risk-reducing climate adaptation measures that can be implemented for diverse heritage types, while considering their specific historic, socio-cultural, economic, and environmental aspects. As such, experts stated that government levels do not provide enough (detailed) guidelines on how and what to do given climate change impacts, especially related to the experienced increase in summer drought and heavy precipitation. Respondents noted that decisionmakers often have difficulties in the identification and understanding of the technical and social feasibility of adaptation measures. It was reported that despite growing climate risk concerns, a “one-size-fits-all” approach applied in flood risk management is likely an unsuitable approach for diverse cultural heritage types because it may fail to address the site-specific climate risks to integrity and significance of cultural heritage site. The lack of adaptation policies was also noted to affect the prioritisation of heritage across various sectors and makes it difficult to understand the current and future scale of needed adaptation interventions. Furthermore, some experts indicated that spatial development and flood management have been exerting pressures, for example through changes in land use planning that exposed cultural heritage to additional risks. Another barrier linked to the policy was a difficulty mainstreaming cultural heritage into existing spatial and/or climate change adaptation policies such as National Adaptation Strategy or Delta Plan on Spatial Adaptation. Some experts commented that measures to reduce risks to cultural heritage are also largely overlooked in emergency preparedness and response.
Competing priorities and conflicting interests (n = 23) is another institutional barrier impeding efficient policy efforts that could incentivise climate adaptation at multi-level governance scales. Experts reported challenges arising from conflicts of interests between different sectors and land uses (e.g. dyke safety improvements leading to cultural landscape or archaeological degradation or loss), and lack of priority-setting and relevance of cultural heritage preservation to all government levels and a wide range of stakeholders. Experts argued that trade-offs resulting from climate-proofing one sector over the cultural heritage sector may become more common in the future, which could cause valuable and irreplaceable cultural heritage to be lost.
A lack of awareness of cultural heritage benefits (n = 17) particularly among stakeholders and policymakers from environmental and climate change fields was perceived as an institutional barrier that can constrain the development of climate adaptation policy for cultural heritage. Experts stressed that while cultural heritage can promote economic growth, contribute to sustainable development and climate change mitigation, and provide the inspiration and knowledge for current and future climate adaptation planning, little has been done to integrate cultural heritage values, benefits, and opportunities into environmental and climate decision-making or policy-making processes at different government levels.
Results also suggest that impediments that arise from the lack of awareness are related to the perceived lack of cooperation (n = 11) and lack of sharing best practices (n = 9) between cultural heritage and environmental stakeholders. Experts noted that there is insufficient cross-sectoral communication of current and planned actions, including a limited transfer of best practices of heritage opportunities (e.g. the contribution of heritage to science and technology and water management) that could inform current and future environmental and climate change decision-making processes.
A few experts mentioned that a lack of urgency (n = 4) constrains the current development of comprehensive measurement tools for climate change risks to diverse cultural heritage types, together with the development of climate adaptation policy for cultural heritage. This barrier also reflects the insufficient cultural heritage presence in new environmental policy (NOVI) (n = 3). Experts expressed concern that the new policy is predominantly focused on long-term challenges of various sectors where diverse cultural heritage types are poorly integrated into these sectors, and with poor consideration of heritage as a guiding principle for the environmental or spatial planning.
Results show that a second frequently reported barrier was a lack of climate change risks and vulnerability assessments for diverse cultural heritage types (n = 52). Specifically, experts opined that a lack of models and tools that can assess the current and future level of risk, exposure to risks, potential impact of loss, and probability of climate-related impacts on diverse cultural heritage types create a technical barrier. Land subsidence, and increasing frequency and duration of summer drought were mentioned as the most challenging environmental or climate-related impacts affecting wooden foundations of historic buildings, cultural landscapes features, archaeological site materials, and safety of historic structures (e.g. water canals and dykes). Interestingly, flood-related risks such as changes in river discharge, heavy rainfall, and sea level rise were perceived as less challenging climate-related impacts on current cultural heritage management. Furthermore, experts indicated that although the Netherlands has a long tradition of knowledge and research development in flood risk mitigation, this has not been widely applied to diverse cultural heritage types. Experts also commented that the lack of tools to conduct stress tests for diverse cultural heritage types impedes a climate-resilient management.
A lack of knowledge about which cultural heritage to retain and change (n = 38) reflects the fact that due to the relatively high maintenance cost of government and owners, and government’s priorities in reducing climate change impacts to “vital and vulnerable functions” [key sectors], not all current cultural heritage types and associated values may be retained in current form and adapted for the future. For instance, while experts perceived that climate change already imposes an economic burden on heritage management, lack of rigorous methodological approaches for making more transparent decisions about which cultural heritage to preserve in current form (and values), and which heritage to change or give a new operational function (e.g. renewable energy transition, adaptive reuse for reducing maintenance cost) are lacking. Furthermore, experts noted that sustainability in heritage management is an emerging issue, but they raised the issue of limited capacity to understand how to enhance the sustainability of diverse heritage types through cost-effective materials and more sustainable construction techniques.
Experts also documented a lack of knowledge about the impacts of energy transition on cultural heritage (n = 28) as a technical barrier, particularly given climate change risks. Even though this barrier is related to climate change mitigation rather than adaptation, experts expressed a concern about a lack of clarity or knowledge how new technically-oriented interventions for energy generation (e.g. wind turbines, solar panels) may affect, transform, and shape authenticity, values, functions, and spatial appearance (quality) of diverse cultural heritage types (implications for cultural landscapes were most often mentioned). Some experts, on the other hand, mentioned that the transition towards a circular economy and renewable energy system can provide new opportunities and functions for cultural heritage, for instance, reusing historic structures (e.g. canals) for water retention purposes can contribute to climate adaptation efforts.
A lack of heritage values assessment and surveying (n = 26) was perceived as a barrier that impedes climate adaptation of cultural heritage. Experts pointed out that there are currently limited measurement tools and approaches for assessing diverse cultural heritage values, especially the ones related to cultural and historical aspects in the case of both slow onset (e.g. sea level rise) or rapid onset climate events (e.g. flooding). Experts noted that this barrier not only applies to a climate change context but also to impacts from vandalism, tourism, inefficient use of existing heritage, and spatial development. Additionally, a lack of comprehensive surveying and monitoring techniques and methodologies that could improve the effectiveness of vulnerability and impact assessments within existing spatial planning and flood risk management for archaeological sites are noted as technical barrier. Some experts also reported that innovation in the cultural heritage field is lacking.
A few experts considered a lack of integrated management of cultural heritage and biodiversity (n = 5) as a barrier, which reflects a weak cross-sectoral dialogue that can adversely affect a natural part of cultural landscapes such as habitats and biological diversity. Moreover, experts mentioned that a lack of integrated intangible and tangible heritage management (n = 2) constrains the development of a common agenda for sustainable management and climate adaptation of cultural heritage.
A lack of public support (n = 7) was perceived as a socio-cultural barrier to adapting cultural heritage to climate change impacts. Experts also noted that despite a longstanding flood risk-related knowledge, history, and governance in the Netherlands, there is a lack of public engagement and co-creation approach, motivation, and support for adapting diverse cultural heritage types against current and future climate change risks.
The experts perceived a lack of financial resources (n = 15) as a factor constraining current cultural heritage management for adapting to climate change impacts. Experts expressed a limited finance mobilisation for climate adaptation of diverse heritage types, especially considering the increasing costs of climate-related impacts among other sectors, together with a lack of long-term investment roadmap for cultural heritage. A lack of financing structures and subsidies for private owners of historic buildings/monuments to effectively cope with climate change, and aligning finance with sustainability were also mentioned as financial barriers. A few experts mentioned that they have difficulties factoring climate change into current funding procedures for cultural heritage management, including insufficient funding for research and technology related to climate change and cultural heritage intersection.
Interdependencies among barriers
Figure 3 shows the reported negative influences among the different barriers to adapting cultural heritage to climate change. Two types of negative influences (directions) among the barriers were identified: (a) external direction where the barrier of one category can influence the barrier in another category (e.g. a lack of urgency influences a lack of climate risk and vulnerability assessments) and (b) internal direction where the barrier of one category can influence another barrier within the same category (e.g. a lack of urgency influences a lack of climate change adaptation policy). These interdependencies and their directions were identified from experts’ responses using a causation coding technique. Note that only interdependencies and their direction of influences identified in the expert questionnaire are visualised, however, we recognise that there may be other interdependencies among identified barriers.
Our results show that the identified barriers are dynamically interdependent and are not mutually exclusive. The most frequently mentioned barriers by the experts such as lack of climate adaptation policy, lack of climate risk and vulnerability assessments, and lack of knowledge about which cultural heritage to retain and change appear to be intertwined. For instance, insufficient knowledge about climate risks and vulnerability, and limited knowledge about which heritage types to preserve and adapt or transform, can hinder climate change adaptation policy for cultural heritage. Similarly, limited funding together with weak public support or motivation for acting on adaptation, as well as competing and conflicting priorities among sectors, and poor awareness of heritage benefits for a wide range of sectors can constrain climate adaptation policy. Another example is lack of cooperation, which can be a limiting factor, especially for technical barriers, such as the lack of knowledge about which cultural heritage to retain and change, lack of integrated management of cultural heritage and biodiversity, lack of integrated intangible and tangible heritage management, lack of knowledge about the impacts of the energy transition on cultural heritage, as well as for some institutional barriers such as lack of sharing best practices, and lack of awareness of cultural heritage benefits.
Strategies for overcoming identified barriers
When asked about the possible ways to overcome the barriers to adapting cultural heritage to climate change, experts identified 185 different strategies, which were synthesised into six main subthemes (Fig. 4).
The main strategy reported to overcome some of the barriers identified by the experts is the development of cultural heritage climate adaptation policy (n = 64). Experts stressed that developing an enabling legal, institutional, and operational framework for climate adaptation of cultural heritage, or mainstreaming cultural heritage both within and across existing climate and spatial adaptation policies at all government levels in order to bridge institutional silos and enhance coordination among relevant institutions and actors is of great importance for overcoming some of the institutional and technical barriers. Attention to integration and mainstreaming can strengthen the position of cultural heritage adaptation vis a vis other competing priorities. Experts also opined that as the socio-economic and environmental pressures on cultural heritage are increasing, cost-effective cultural heritage strategies are needed. These strategies need to focus on current and future preservation targets in terms of concepts, indicators for monitoring heritage change, and a new range of feasible maintenance and preservation options need to be integrated with relevant environmental and climate change guidance and policy.
An improved knowledge about climate change and cultural heritage (n = 47) was perceived by the experts as a strategy that is vital to preserving cultural heritage for present and future generations. Specifically, experts identified an urgent need to improve scientific understanding of current and future climate risks and vulnerabilities to diverse cultural heritage types, as well as to develop concrete regional climate change scenarios. A few experts stated that enhancing the practical-oriented and collaborative problem-solving academic education, together with improved communication of risk information tailored to a wide range of stakeholders is needed for more efficient management of cultural heritage given climate change impacts. Furthermore, experts frequently highlighted the need to focus not only on providing more and a better long-term climate change data, but also to focus on analytical tools, and new technologies that can more transparently and jointly characterise new and evolving cultural heritage values, qualities, and functions, including the integration of cultural heritage values with climate change risk assessments.
Promoting cooperation and sharing best practices (n = 38) across all government levels and diverse stakeholders was identified as a critical strategy. Experts argued that promoting and strengthening cooperation among environmental/climate and cultural heritage stakeholders and multi-level actors is needed for more flexible and effective cultural heritage management facing a changing climate. Additionally, experts stated that identifying and disseminating best practices of cultural heritage across policy domains can facilitate learning and create a body of knowledge about cultural heritage resilience, past management solutions, and techniques to cope with the current climate and environmental changes, inspire non-heritage sectors and policymakers to learn about creative ways to reduce climate change impacts, and minimise damages and losses of diverse heritage.
Raising the awareness of the economic, environmental, and socio-cultural benefits (n = 16) that diverse types of cultural heritage provide to other sectors was perceived as an important precondition for current and future environmental and spatial decision-making, and for mainstreaming cultural heritage into current adaptation efforts. The necessity to raise awareness of the potential of historic buildings and structures for sustainable economic development (e.g. foster adaptive reuse and economic viability), to strengthen the role of heritage in environmental planning and spatial development, and to promote combinations of scientific knowledge and traditional or local knowledge that is embodied in cultural landscapes and historic structures, were perceived by the experts as important means to overcoming some of the main institutional barriers (lack of climate adaptation policy and competing priorities and conflicting interests).
Improving public support (n = 15) for cultural heritage protection and climate adaptation, including a better appreciation of diverse heritage types, and joint evaluation of values of diverse cultural heritage types (also referred to as co-creation) were perceived as needed socio-cultural strategy. Experts argued that involvement and discussion with a wide range of stakeholders, private owners, and policymakers should form the basis for an informed decision-making process on how to deal with the changing climate and changing cultural heritage values and functions (e.g. redesign and transformation of heritage) in both short and longer terms.
Interestingly, an increase in funding (n = 5) was ranked as a comparatively less needed strategy for adapting cultural heritage to climate change. A few experts noted that it is necessary to increase subsidies for private owner,s and stimulating public and private funding streams for sustainable preservation, as well as to increase research grants for investigating climate change risks and cultural heritage adaptation interventions.