Malta solidified its commitment to culture-based climate action during COP28 by becoming a founding member of a coalition of 27 countries dedicated to integrating culture as a central pillar in the global response to climate change. This collaboration was formalized whilst the Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, Owen Bonnici was attending the High-level Ministerial Dialogue on Culture-based Climate Action at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates.
The focus of this united effort, known as the "Group of Friends of Culture-based Climate Action" is for the adoption by the Conference of Parties of a Joint Work decision on Culture and Climate Action that would call the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its subsidiary bodies to jointly address issues at the intersection between culture and heritage and climate action, aiming to make recommendations for consideration and adoption during next year's COP, COP29.
Minister Owen Bonnici emphasized the recognition of the urgent need to elevate the discourse on cultural preservation within the context of climate change. He continued that the cultural sector, significantly impacted by climate change, possesses untapped potential to contribute both physically and societally. He also stated that UNESCO reports that nearly one-third of its 318 World Heritage sites are located in vulnerable coastal areas.
Minister Bonnici highlighted that, in the face of the escalating climate crisis, the role of Culture Ministers extends beyond conventional custodianship. "We safeguard not only tangible and intangible cultural treasures but also the very essence that defines our societies as diverse and vibrant. As we navigate climate-induced pressures, our collective action is imperative to ensure the preservation of our cultural legacy," he emphasized.
The Minister explained that tangible cultural artifacts bear visible scars of climate change, requiring increased financial demands for maintenance. Malta acknowledges the potential scarcity of global technical expertise and advocates for a more structured international platform for the exchange of successful strategies at both technical and political levels.
Malta also underscores the importance of tailoring interventions to the unique needs, resources, and aspirations of each state in crafting solutions. While commending the integration of cultural discourse into broader climate discussions, Malta stresses the importance of avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach that could undermine international commitments.
“We support the current informal setup, allowing states flexibility in determining the most effective ways for culture to emerge as a formidable instrument in the collective fight against the challenges of climate change," he explained.
Minister Bonnici concluded by emphasizing the need for policies that not only preserve but also promote culture, serving as a rallying call to safeguard and strengthen cultural identities.
The "Group of Friends of Culture-based Climate Action," co-chaired by the UAE, the present host of COP-28, and Brazil, the future host of COP-30, also garnered support from 14 internationally acclaimed cultural institutions, including UNESCO, ICCROM, ICOMOS and Europa Nostra. Six other countries participated as observers and more countries are expected to join.