Culture, Climate and Environmental Responsibility: Annual Report 20-21
Every year Arts Council England and Julie's Bicycle produce an Environmental Responsibilities Report celebrating the successes of creative and cultural organisations in acting on national and international climate targets. This 2020-21 report covers data and insight from a year when England was subject to three national lockdowns.
Report highlights include:
• 85% of respondents reported making the same, or increased progress on environmental commitments as the previous year
• 96% of respondents reported that environmental commitments made during lockdown were underway
• 49% of respondents collaborated with other cultural organisations to find and share solutions to environmental issues
Culture – the arts, heritage and creative industries – has an exponential influence on our lives, making the myths, telling the stories and designing the things we value. This is why culture should be at the heart of climate solutions and the vital contribution culture makes to the climate struggle is now widely recognised – and not before time. Rapid decarbonisation whilst simultaneously adapting to the realities of climate impacts is as urgent as ever. But it is one imperative of several, including halting biodiversity loss, transforming the global food system, and designing out toxic outflows (domestic and industrial waste, chemical spillage, and so on). The scale of change is staggering, so large that it creates opportunities to tackle other systems failures as well such as equity, fairness and historic injustice.
The cultural community is preparing for change. In spring of 2020, Julie’s Bicycle ran, with Arts Council support, a series of three roundtables to hear from 75 cultural colleagues about big environmentally focused agendas: decarbonisation, nature and regenerative economics. We asked people about their environmental priorities, the challenges, and the policies that would support them. Even then the sector was feeling ambitious:
1. Call for policy to support local economies and place-making with decarbonisation incentives on the ground;
2. Policy to tighten up on greenhouse gas emissions reductions and require absolute reduction targets for medium and large organisations, with strong leadership and accountability from cultural funders, matched by leadership from boards and executive teams with commitments across strategic, operational and creative planning.
3. Better dialogue and partnerships dedicated to environmental actions between cultural organisations and artists, local authorities and national government to support investment in infrastructure, transport, green spaces and circular resource use.
4. A huge appetite for skills to support a ‘green’ cultural economy, bringing together digital skills with impact data.
5. Inclusion and justice as watchwords for climate action, to rapidly increase training and support for the cultural workforce, including new entrants, to ensure that employment opportunities are fair. There were calls to champion creative and cultural leaders from excluded communities, and to explicitly link justice and climate.
Since then the policy landscape has changed significantly – the pandemic, two devastating IPCC Reports of the 6th Assessment, COP 26 and now, the first shoots of recovery where ‘levelling up’, in arts no less than anywhere else, is a priority, has moved the sector on. Yet these compelling ideas remain fresh and demand action – they set the priorities for the sector, and for us all.
Download the report (PDF)