Our environment is facing a number of climate change related challenges.


The UKCP018 (UK Climate Projection 18)  projections of future change (measured relative to a 1981-2000 baseline for temperature and precipitation and a 1980-1999 baseline for sea-level rise) for Northern Ireland if high emissions continue are:

  • increase in mean winter temperature very likely to be between 0.1-2.2 ºC by 2060-2079
  • increase in mean summer temperature very likely to be between 0.0-2.8 ºC by 2060-2079
  • change in winter mean precipitation very likely to be between -3% drier to 17% wetter by 2060-2079
  • change in summer mean precipitation very likely to be between 28% drier to 6% wetter by 2060-2079
  • sea level around the UK is predicted to rise under all emission pathways (Though this will be highest in the SE of England)

Climate Change infographic

These are issues which may have significant implications for heritage assets over coming years, with the potential to speed up and exacerbate many decay mechanisms.

Impacts may include:

  • structural damage to heritage assets;
  • the undermining of structures;
  • loss of coastal heritage through rising sea levels;
  • the exposure and erosion of archaeological sites;
  • the collapse of unstable masonry elements.
  • the loss of some historic landscape features;
  • the decay of building fabric caused by increased saturation;
  • microbiological growth in interiors and
  • increased corrosion of metal elements.

There may also be a risk posed by responses to the issue such as inappropriate energy efficiency or rainfall adaptation or even inadvertent damage in response to threats like fire or flood.

The Glenrandal Bridge, Claudy following flooding in October 2017
The Glenrandal Bridge, Claudy following flooding in October 2017

So what are DfC Historic Environment Division (HED) doing to respond to this issue?

The Department recognises the importance of adaption to and mitigation against Climate Change impacts and in 2020, set up a Climate Change working group which will publish an annual Climate Change Action Plan. HED has also set up its own climate change team and this work feeds back into the DfC Climate change action plan.

Further work includes:

  • DfC has contributed to the Northern Ireland Climate Change Adaption Programme 2019- 2024
  • DfC has increased its engagement with heritage agencies dealing with this issue across UK and Ireland
  • Ministers have signed a North-South Memorandum of Understanding on Climate Action and Cultural Heritage  
  • conservation Charities & Agencies combine forces to tackle the impact of climate change on the UK’s heritage | National Trust
  • the Department has supported the development of a climate change assessment tool for historic building owners
  • the Department has the policy lead for heritage, working with colleagues across other departments and within local government to identify and address Climate Change impacts on cultural heritage and shared challenges or opportunities. The Department has engaged with District Councils through their Community Planning process to advise them of the potential of the Historic Environment and are working with a number of councils as they produce plans to develop their heritage including steps to consider the future impacts of climate change
  • in March 2021 a joint meeting was held between the Historic Buildings Council and Historic Monuments Council to share and highlight issues affecting the historic environment in Northern Ireland as a result of Climate Change
  • DfC is raising the profile of whole life carbon. Considering the balance of carbon in the whole life cycle of buildings from transport of locally sourced materials right through to re-use of building materials means that re-use and retrofit of historic buildings lessens carbon footprint, mitigating against climate change impacts. This webinar was organised in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Ulster University and South West College to promote a greater awareness of whole life carbon, with a particular focus on embodied carbon and how we can holistically reduce all carbon. Current UK policy emphasis is on ‘in use’ and ‘operational’ carbon of building, however the Working Group wants to provide greater understanding of whole life carbon, of which ‘in use’ and ‘operational’ carbon is only one part
  • by maintaining ‘The List’ of Historic Buildings of Special Interest, and the Schedule of Historic Monuments, as well as maintaining and continually updating the Historic Environment Record of Northern Ireland, which contains thematic records of all of NI’s recorded heritage assets, the Department makes every effort to ensure that the historic environment in Northern Ireland is recognised and protected. These records are extensive and include the Register of Parks and Gardens, the Industrial Heritage Record and the Defence Heritage Record amongst others
  • DfC already identifies and protects a wide range of historic assets through designation and policy. As statutory consultees within the planning process the Department is a statutory consultee in relation to works to or in the setting of heritage assets, which helps prevent against inappropriate development; the Department also provides best practice guidance and advice on the repair and maintenance of heritage assets in Northern Ireland. This includes identifying buildings and structures which are at risk – one of those risks being the impacts of climate change
  • in partnership with our sister agencies across the UK and lead by the National Trust, a Climate change Hazard Map Tool has been created to help custodians of heritage assets to identify the risks associated with climate change for example to their building, monument or historic garden. This hexigrid mapping tool also allows forecasting into the future, which means that consideration can be given to long term strategies to adapt to climate change hazards where they may arise
  • the Department is a significant owner/ custodian of heritage assets - State Care Monuments. HED is carrying out Climate Change Risk Assessments across our own estate. Evaluation of climate change issues for the state care monuments is to be embedded in the quinquennial condition surveys, and within the Investment Programme proposals that are being developed
  • through cyclical monitoring, HED is also gathering data on condition and risk scoring for Scheduled Monuments
  • HED are currently considering the Drafting of an Action Plan for identifying, adaptation to and mitigating against climate change Impacts on heritage assets in Northern Ireland. This may include proposed strategies for creating a condition baseline for future monitoring the rate of climate change impacts. It proposes using information gathered by HED to make recommendations about adaptation to and mitigation methods to others as guidance. This information ranges from LIDAR to the ground visual inspection. It will also involve consultation with our historic environment stakeholders
  • there are particular facets of older buildings and monuments which often lead to them responding differently than newer structures to climate change, their special status also means that there are variations in how buildings and monuments should be adapted to mitigate against climate change for example to improve energy efficiency. HED works with sister organisations across the UK and Ireland to understand how best to address these impacts, and share knowledge
  • the Department is responsible for collating progress reports against the Executive’s Protocol for the Care of the Government Historic Estate, and the current report which is being collated will ask for Departments to consider how they are managing their estate in relation to possible climate change impacts and planned mitigations
  • the Division is also reviewing, with CPD and others, whether the BREEAM standard currently being used in a number of construction projects would provide a suitable mechanism to embed climate change considerations within projects. The standard covers many different elements, including climate change, and is already being used as the basis for some NI public sector projects
  • the Department, in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland, Cadw, Historic England and the National Trust contributed to live events relating to heritage and climate change. The first event in October 2021 was a summit hosted by Historic Environment Scotland on Climate Heritage Resilience. The second event in November 2021 was hosted by the British Irish Council on the topic: COP26 Cultural Heritage and Coastal Resilience
  • together with other UK heritage organisations including the Department for Communities, The National Trust have created a range of Climate Change Adaption guidance. This guidance will be available to any person or organization looking after such places to help them build resilience to climate change and how to make decisions in the face of climate hazards. These new guidance documents have been released in time for COP 27 and will be available over the course of 2022 and 2023.

Useful links

Strategic Climate Change documents for the Heritage Sector

Climate Projections

Risk Assessment

International Context

UK/Regional Context

 Policy and Legislation 

Strategic documents which guide climate change policy

  • The Regional Development Strategy (RDS 2035) for Northern Ireland, section RG11 describes the need to conserve, protect and, where possible, enhance our built heritage and natural environment, including protection form the impacts of climate change.
  • The Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) for Northern Ireland ‘Planning for Sustainable Development’, published in 2015.
  • The NI Outcomes Delivery Plan 2018-19 is the highest level strategic document of the NI Civil Service - providing a direction for the work of government as set out by the Executive in the form of the draft Programme for Government. The Outcomes Delivery Plan contains 12 strategic outcomes which have been identified as making the greatest difference to people’s lives and wellbeing.
  • New Decade, New Approach  - January 2020



 Coastal erosion


 Energy efficiency

Installation of renewable energy sources in listed buildings

Impact of the installation of wind turbines in Northern Ireland’s landscapes (including historic landscapes)

Wave and tidal energy in the historic environment


Carbon footprint and traditional buildings

Energy performance certificates for traditional buildings

Heritage and climate change - research

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