Press Release

Climate Risk Assessment of the Ancient Nabatean City of Petra Published

Report written by local and international researchers first to address Petra climate impacts in conjunction with risks to local community social and economic values

Photograph by Michael O. Snyder/National Geographic

A climate risk assessment for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra has just been published by the Petra National Trust and the Petra Development Tourism Regional Authority as part of their participation in Preserving Legacies, a global climate adaptation initiative supported by the National Geographic Society and the International Council on Monuments and Sites. The report explored - for the first time - not just the impacts to tangible heritage like tombs and buildings, but also the risks to the wider social and economic values of those who live and work around the site – those whose voices are central to ensuring sustainable and equitable climate action.

The report summarises the results from a series of locally-led, community-focused climate risk assessment focus groups and a workshop held in June 2023. During these, priority values associated with Petra were determined, local observations of climate were documented, and downscaled, localised climate models were visualised. The results from this work will be used to inform future climate adaptation actions at Petra as well as methodology for values-based risk assessments for additional heritage sites that are part of the Preserving Legacies initiative.

Key insights include:

  • Economic values related to tourism and agriculture were identified as the most important for the local community. Additional values of importance include its historical and archaeological value, as well as those associated with the natural landscape.
  • Drought emerged as a new threat based on a middle-of-the-road scenario where greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at current rates until 2060. Values at greatest risk to this slow onset climate event are those associated with the broader landscape, including agricultural and natural values.
  • Values directly associated with the site, like the economic value of tourism and archaeological value, are less at risk to predicted climate impacts, including the already-felt increased frequency of flash floods. The lower risk is in no small part due to adaptation efforts in recent years to restore the traditional terracing and flood barriers of the ancient Nabateans who built Petra, and were masters in water management, spotlighting the importance of exploring and using past knowledge for climate adaptation.

The values-based approach to this risk assessment made it possible to explore broader community concerns and illustrates the benefits of integrating diverse knowledge systems, respecting plural values, and engaging communities in decision-making. Additionally, climate science models enabled the local community to visualise future change while local knowledge about changing weather, agriculture and society provided invaluable insight into how these changes will impact Petra and its community. By sharing knowledge and building local capacities, meaningful and sustainable climate action can be embedded within communities responsible for safeguarding heritage sites, and all that they represent.

Full report available upon request.


‘For the people of Petra the integrity of monuments, buildings, landscape, plants and animals of Petra was important as were activities in and around the site that contributed to their wellbeing – and all are experiencing damage as a result of climate change. This damage is pervasive and persistent, requiring a dynamic and continuous response requiring significant investments of time, resources and effort… Preserving Legacies focused on finding an innovative and effective approach that emphasised inclusion, valorized local voices and created a space to integrate science, knowledge, learning and community values’.

Her Royal Highness Princess Dana Firas, President of the Petra National Trust

‘Recognizing the evident impacts of climate change, we have given special attention to this issue. Collaborating with partners, we have established an early warning system for flash floods resulting from sudden and rapid rainfall. We have maintained and rehabilitated the pathways of flowing water through the archaeological site, undertaken maintenance programs, and restored the Nabataean water system and terraces surrounding the site’

Dr Faris Al-Breizat, Chairman of the Board of the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority

‘By combining climate science and community voices, this groundbreaking report enables a better understanding of how current and future climate hazards will impact local values of Petra. But more than that, as the first Preserving Legacies Risk Assessment published, it serves as a peer precedent for communities around the world to centre people and place in climate adaptation’.

Dr Victoria Herrmann, Director of Preserving Legacies and National Geographic Explorer

‘Climate change represents the single largest challenge for heritage professionals. The scale of this challenge necessitates a fundamental rethink in how we ‘do’ heritage. At ICOMOS, we believe that equipping and empowering local heritage professionals - like those at Petra - is essential to address the scale of the climate crisis. This report is so important because it shows the power and value of locally-led and place-based assessments. It shows that through the passion and dedication of partners like PNT and PDTRA, there can be a vibrant and exciting future for our past.

Dr William Megarry, ICOMOS Focal Point for Climate Change and Queen’s University Beflast

About Petra National Trust

Petra National Trust promotes best practices in cultural and natural heritage preservation and management in Jordan, the region, and beyond. Established in 1989, Petra National Trust is a Jordanian, non-governmental, non-profit organisation. It is Jordan’s oldest national organisation for cultural heritage preservation. Initially focused on preserving the values and significance of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra, today PNT’s work covers cultural, archeological and World Heritage sites in Jordan and the region.

About Petra Development Tourism Regional Authority

The Petra Development Tourism Regional Authority is an independent financial and administrative Authority, founded in 2009, that aims to develop the region, economically, socially, culturally, and as a tourist destination, as well as contribute to local community development. PDTRA is managed by a Board of Commissioners that consists of five members including the President and Vice President and a member who is authorised to manage the Petra Reserve. The members are appointed by the Prime Ministry and approved by His Majesty King Abdullah I.

About Preserving Legacies

Preserving Legacies safeguards the world’s natural and cultural heritage against the impacts of climate change. As the bridge between heritage site custodians, climate scientists, and communities, they’ve created a scalable framework for scientific, values-based capacity-building, risk assessment, and adaptation implementation. From iconic places like Petra in Jordan to more locally-renowned ones like Sceilg Mhichíl in Ireland, they have trained 30 site custodians in just one year and are on a mission to save every site. Their partners include National Geographic Society, International Council on Monuments and Sites, and the Climate Heritage Network. Learn more about their #ClimateCustodian work and movement at


The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a non-governmental, not for profit international organisation, committed to furthering the conservation, protection, use and enhancement of the world’s cultural heritage. With over 11,000 members, 110+ National Committees, 31 International Scientific Committees and several Working Groups, ICOMOS has built a solid philosophical, doctrinal and managerial framework for the sustainable conservation of heritage around the world. As an official Advisory Body to the World Heritage Committee for the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, ICOMOS evaluates nominations and advises on the state of conservation of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List.

About Climate Heritage Network

The Climate Heritage Network (CHN) is a voluntary, mutual support network of government agencies, NGOs, universities, businesses, and other organizations committed to tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Mobilized in 2018 during the Global Climate Action Summit and launched in 2019, the Climate Heritage Network works to re-orient climate policy, planning, and action at all levels to account for dimensions of culture - from arts to heritage.

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