As part of the Climate Change theme of our Sector Resilience Interviews series, we spoke with Dan Miles, Sector to Net Zero project lead at Historic England, and Liz Power, Director for Historic Buildings & Places, all about carbon literacy training opportunities for the sector. 
Read on to find out more.
Liz, Dan, tell us a bit about yourselves and your roles in the heritage sector.

Liz: I am the Director of Historic Buildings & Places, one of the national amenity societies, so we support the heritage sector with listed building advice, as well as running programs for our members, and those interested in heritage. I have been involved with Carbon Literacy since the launch of the toolkit for Museums at the start of 2022, and I have been training people to become Carbon Literate since then.

Dan: I am the Sector to Net Zero project lead at Historic England and am responsible for various strands of work supporting heritage organisations on their journey to Net Zero.

What can you tell us about Carbon Literacy? Why is it important for the heritage sector’s resilience?

Both: The Carbon Literacy course for Heritage is an introduction from people working in all areas of Heritage into the causes, consequences and actions we can take as organisations in the climate emergency. The course looks at the role heritage can plan, the co-benefits of taking action and what a low carbon heritage organisation might look like. Each one day course ends with people making pledges setting out actions they can put into place in their own workplace to reduce their carbon emissions.

The course is a great foundational step to raise awareness and set organisations off to identify what they need to reduce emissions and help them identify their next steps. 

How did you develop the Carbon Literacy training course for the heritage sector?

Liz: I got involved after talking to the Carbon Literacy Trust about using the Museum toolkit to train my team at Historic Buildings & Places. They suggested talking to Dan about the work he was doing about developing the course for Heritage, and I was delighted to be able to help develop the course so it was more suited for Heritage organisations.

The most fun aspect of developing the course was researching all the case studies to add in. There are so many good examples of the work organisations are doing to tackle climate change and the path to net zero, from big to small, and being able to read about them, and add them for others to share was a great opportunity.

Dan: Historic England was looking to develop and roll out a carbon literacy course to support heritage sector organisations and internally for Historic England staff.  I then got agreement from the museum Roots and Branches project and the Carbon Literacy Trust to develop a new heritage course based on the successful museums course and toolkit.. This course has been developed with a more heritage flavour, in particular including a number of heritage case studies.  As part of our call for support to the HEF Sustainability & Climate Change Task Group, Liz Power got in touch offering her support in developing the course…. and the rest is history!

What does success look like?  Do you have plans to measure this?

Dan:  Success is two fold:

1) the successful take up of training places by heritage organisations on carbon literacy

2) the successful sharing of and use of the course across the sector to help train the staff of individual organisations.

This will be measured in numbers of organisations trained, but also in evaluating the pledges that each participant of the training has to do if they want to get their carbon literacy certificate. These pledges will show what trainees will do to implement changes in their lives and organisations which can be analysed and evaluated.

How can colleagues find out more, or get involved?

5 sector support organisations are responsible for administering and rolling out approx 55 courses over 2024; there will be more opportunities for other support bodies to roll out carbon literacy courses in the future. 

Information on the courses and how to enrol will be published on the Historic England website in the New Year.

Overall, what do you think is most crucial for ensuring a resilient heritage sector?

Liz: I think that as a sector we need knowledge: most people want to make changes for the usability of the planet, and their organisations, but they don’t know where to start. Hopefully Carbon Literacy will be one way of starting to building that resilience

Dan: Agree with Liz – basic carbon literacy skills and knowledge are essential building blocks for heritage organisations to begin to understand the impacts and what they can do reduce their own emissions. These climate action building blocks will begin to create a more resilient historic environment.  

This Sector Resilience interview was shared by Dan and Liz as part of our Heritage Sector Resilience Plan activities. 

If you’d like to contribute an interview as part of the series, follow the link below to find out more:

Sector Resilience Interviews – Historic Environment Forum