The Biden-Harris Administration Transition
The Cultural Sector is ready to help the Biden-Harris Administration address the four convergent crises of economics, health, equity and climate change. Climate action, in a just, strategic manner, has solutions.
Cultural institutions are where creativity, ingenuity, learning, opportunity, discovery, truth and joy are generated, shared, and on display on a daily basis. Exporting that to our communities through partnerships is always our model and always overlooked.
We Are Still In recognizes that only through bottom-up and top-down work, can climate action be effective and lasting. Cultural institutions are ready to help with the bottom-up approach through institutional practices and public engagement, and by partnering with the Administration to implement its top-down policies and initiatives.
COP25: Madrid, Spain to COP26: Glasgow, Scotland
Based on the success of COP25 events and networking, Sustainable Museums is prepared to expand participation by cultural institutions in COP26 virtually and in-person in 2021. Partnerships through Climate Heritage Network will expand the opportunities for bilateral engagement to share climate action ideas at our sites and to support the development of similar cultural coalitions for the Paris Agreement in other countries. No country can do enough work without both an engaged federal government and an engaged public through subnational action. America has an example worth considering.
At COP25 in Madrid, we sent a signal to the World that US museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums and historic sites are valuable resources for understanding environment and climate issues, and partners for achieving the goals. We were stopped in the street and thanked for our participation despite the lack of federal engagement. And we were consistently greeted with surprise as people slowly came to realize that cultural institutions have a distinctive ability to engage the public and the media with data, images, and knowledge.
Cultural institutions made an important showing in Madrid. Not only were there representatives from the United States, we joined with others from the UK to fan out across the participating countries’ pavilions to spread the word that cultural institutions – museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, history museums and heritage sites – are not only taking action on climate issues but are excellent partners with any sector tackling mitigation, adaptation, resilience, research and public engagement.
Stephanie Shapiro, representing the American Alliance of Museums, and I, representing the Cultural Sector of We Are Still In, participated in five presentations in four different ‘country’ settings. Andrew Potts, ICOMOS coordinator of the international Climate Heritage Network, was in nearly every ‘country’ during the two weeks, facilitating or joining panel presentations to spread the word.
During our time there we were energized and so excited at the new or deeper connections we made with peers. We left mid-way since our passes lasted only so long, but took with us a set of national and international plans for broadening and deepening our work.
Once home we started hearing about the lack of significant national commitments on the final days.
We heard that many think the COP was a failure on par with earlier meetings that failed to create or scale ambition. And if we’re honest instead of hopeful, what we saw during was a stunning lack of global nation-state leadership on climate change, the absence of which by the US administration being the worst and most shameful example.
Still, just as in 2017 when the US Administration announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and thoughtful Americans refused to retreat from climate action, I expect the same response globally: those who care will still do this work, and do so to fill the void from significant national ambition in their home countries.
There is great value in the step-up that others’ withdrawals trigger, but only if the abdication is soon reversed, the temporary substitute response is significant, and if both continue with strength and courage until the job is done.
Recent New Signatories