Meld. St. 16 (2019–2020)

New goals for Norway’s cultural environment policy— Meld. St. 16 (2019–2020) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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1 Cultural environment policy – part of Norway’s climate and environmental policy

Humans have always left traces of their activities in their surroundings. These traces constitute our communal memory of past generations’ societies and ways of life. They are environmental, social and economic assets that provide the basis for knowledge, experience and use. They are also valuable resources in a circular system of reuse. With good, integrated land use and social planning, cultural heritage can be a positive resource and part of the solution to many of our era’s societal challenges.

Human impact on the environment is now so pervasive that loss of biodiversity and a global climate crisis have become the greatest challenges of our time. To understand our own era, we need to understand the people who came before us and historical developments. The cultural-historical traces in our surroundings are a testimony to humanity’s ability to influence nature, but also nature’s influence on our lives.

The challenges society is facing require a change of course, including in the national policy for the cultural environment. The purpose of this white paper is to present new national goals for Norway’s cultural environment policy and ensure a clearer focus on the cultural environment sector as an important part of Norway’s overall climate and environmental policy.

When the Ministry of the Environment was established in 1972, responsibility for legislation and management of cultural monuments and sites was an integral part of its mandate. The thinking behind the decision to combine responsibility for nature management, management of cultural monuments and sites and physical planning in one place was the wish to be able to include the management of nature and the cultural environment in the general land-use planning and to form a basis for integrated management of the environment and Norway’s resources in a long-term perspective.

The cultural-historical elements in the landscape have been created through people’s adaptations to and use of nature. The close connections between the natural environment and the cultural environment and how they are managed have been defined and developed in Norway’s climate and environmental policy, resource management practices, legislation and regulations since 1972.

In recent years, the links between the management of the cultural environment on the one hand and the management of climate change and environmental issues in general on the other have become more evident and have been brought into sharper focus. This can be seen in, for example: the European Landscape Convention, which emphasises landscape as the connecting link between nature and culture; Norway’s involvement in the World Heritage Convention’s common framework for the preservation of the world’s most important cultural and natural heritage; and the Norwegian initiative Agricultural Landscapes of Special Interest, which aims to preserve cultural environments, natural diversity and agriculture. A great deal of work has been done to promote value creation based on cultural and natural heritage, such as in the tourism industry, in various value-creation projects, and in the nine regional parks. Cultural and natural heritage are assets that are inextricably interlinked and constitute an important resource for society.

It is important and necessary that the management of the cultural environment is seen in tandem with and is integrated as part of the broader management of climate change and environmental issues. This connection has also come to the fore through the impact of the changing climate on the cultural environment. At the same time, the preservation of cultural environments can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the circular economy.

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