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Friday, 01 December 2017 13:10

UK arts sector leading the charge on climate change action

Every year, the international COP talks encourage us to see our global leaders as catalysts for environmental change and a sustainable future. But a new report suggests we should instead look to our theatres, ballet companies and music venues for the real climate revolution.

art dot squiggle copyAt first glance, there would seem to be few connections between the arts industries and science-led climate change discourse. However, the Sustaining Great Art report, published by Arts Council England and environmental charity Julie's Bicycle, reveals that the sector is rolling its sleeves up and taking the initiative when it comes to climate action.

Julie's Bicycle have long argued that culture is crucial to building a sustainable future and steering the climate away from breakdown as a result of human-caused damage. Founder Alison Tickell says, "An opportunity lies, at the heart of sustainable cultural and economic development, for us to foreground ourselves as architects of climate engagement" and it seems that the sector is taking this missive seriously.

The report demonstrates that the Arts Council's funding portfolio have reduced their environmental impacts (energy-use related emissions) by 21% since the beginning of the Arts Council environmental programme in 2012/13 and that the National Portfolio has saved £11m in the process.

art China Hall copyThese impressive figures are by no means simply a result of large cultural institutions being able to 'afford' to invest in sustainable practices. The report shows that smaller organisations including venues, artists, and charities are among those taking on the challengeand reaping significant financial and reputational rewards as a result. As well as the direct savings that come with initiatives such as installing solar panels, implementing energy efficiencies and reducing waste, organisations find themselves better able to access funding and investment opportunities as a result, putting money back into the arts.

Ian Rimington, Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability at Arts Council England says, "Organisations that have reduced their environmental impacts are reaping significant rewards - good news for the planet, for the arts community, and those experiencing art and culture."

The arts economy is changing too, with new jobs, services and products. This should be welcome news for Michael Gove, who recently expressed concern that tackling climate change should not come at the cost of economic growth: the two ambitions are by no means mutually exclusive.

Despite 97% of the global scientific community agreeing on the causes and risks of climate change, recent studies show that only a third of people remember ever having a conversation about climate change. This suggests that climate change is not just a scientific, or technical or political challenge but a cultural one. Storytellers, art makers, creatives and designers are perfectly placed to build the new narratives for the global shifts we so urgently need.