A new report outlining how methods trialled in Orkney could be adopted to protect World Heritage sites across the globe from the impacts of climate change has been launched as part of the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site, which includes the prehistoric village of Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar stone circle, is the first cultural World Heritage site to undergo Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) assessment. The report examines both the vulnerability of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the site to the impacts of climate change – the basis for its selection as a World Heritage property – as well as community vulnerability, which looks at the economic, social and cultural importance of the site for the local community and the potential impact of any loss, as well as its resilience to climate change risks.

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The report was produced following a workshop in Orkney earlier this year to trial the CVI framework, which assesses the threat that climate change poses to all types of heritage sites. Supported by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), in partnership with University of the Highlands and Islands, James Cook University (JCU, Australia), Orkney Islands Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and ICOMOS Climate Change and Heritage Working Group, the workshop was attended by leading international heritage professionals and climate scientists.

The report recommends wider application of the CVI methodology, both in Scotland and internationally, highlighting its significant potential to enhance understanding and support adaptation to address climate change challenges at World Heritage sites worldwide.

Ewan Hyslop, Head of Technical Research and Science at HES, said: “It was a great honour for the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site to be chosen to pilot the CVI methodology, and we’re pleased to have brought those findings to the international stage during the World Heritage Committee meeting in Baku.

"While the findings of the report reiterate the severity of climate change risk to the World Heritage site in Orkney, there are also positives to take away in terms of the resilience of the site and the wider community to manage the impacts of climate change in the future.

“It’s heartening that work undertaken in Scotland could have such a significant positive impact for heritage sites across the world, and we hope that the World Heritage Committee will recommend that the CVI is adopted as a standard for measuring climate change risk to World Heritage sites.”

The CVI Assessment of Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site is available to view and download from the HES website.

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