Arts responding to climate emergency – report

Arts organisations are responding positively to climate change criteria, according to a new report for Arts Council England.

The report by the consultants Julie’s Bicycle is in advance of a major conference on culture and climate, We Make Tomorrow, taking place on February 26 at London's Royal Geographical Society.

It highlights initiatives in response to the four year challenge of an ACE action plan for its national portfolio organisations. Bristol’s Colston Hall, for instance, is aiming at zero carbon emissions by 2030, and the London Theatre Consortium is developing a roadmap for a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025.

The report, Sustaining Great Art and Culture 2018/19, details data, projections and initiatives from the opening year of a four-year programme, underpinned by two new strands of work.

It finds that

  • 54% of organisations receiving ACE revenue funding have installed energy efficient lighting and controls and 32% of purchased electricity is on a green tariff contract.
  • 47% are trailing sustainable production or exhibition methods;30% are with banks that invest in social and environmental projects.
  • 50% have developed new creative or artistic opportunities as a result of environmental initiatives; 49% have produced, programmed or curated work on environmental themes.
  • 70% actively promote virtual communications technology as an alternative to travelling.

“The success of this programme goes far beyond data collection and carbon reduction” said ACE chair Nicholas Serota. “Cultural organisations are embedding climate action into the core of their operations – developing creative solutions, forging new partnerships and sparking valuable conversations on sustainability with their audiences. The actions taken to address climate change over the next decade will be crucial and, as society faces up to this challenge, the imagination, ambition and commitment demonstrated in the Arts Council’s 2018/19 Environmental Report point the way forward.”

And Julie’s Bicycle’s CEO Alison Tickell added: “Culture has a carbon footprint, and data matters. This report shows why. It also highlights, through the range of responses, that there should be no opposition between what art is and how art does: reducing emissions prompts creativity and activism, and vice versa. Sustainable practice is reframing cultural leadership, offering regenerative solutions and giving back more than we take.”

Since 2018 national portfolio organisations have been required to put environmental policy and action plans in place, whilst annually monitoring their environmental impacts using a carbon foot-printing tool designed by Julie’s Bicycle, since 2012 when ACE became the first cultural body in the world to make environmental reporting part of funding agreements.

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