Art & Culture respond to Climate Crisis

06 September 2021

Julie's Bicycle

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum is proud to be part of Arts Council and Julie's Bicycle's spotlight programme to reduce carbon emissions. Find out more about how arts & culture are helping to combat climate change in the following press release from Arts Council and Julie's Bicycle...

Today, Arts Council England (ACE) and its environmental partner, the non-profit organisation Julie’s Bicycle, publish their annual report for 2019-20 which highlights the successes that Arts Council-funded arts and cultural organisations have achieved in acting on the climate and ecological crisis.

2021 is a vital year for climate action, with the upcoming United Nations COP26 climate talks taking place in Glasgow this November. It also marks nearly a decade since Julie’s Bicycle began working in partnership with Arts Council on their Environmental Programme, to inspire environmental action across the sector, with a focus on supporting and consulting with Arts Council’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), who receive long-term funding and are demonstrating important CO2 emissions reductions and innovative approaches to sustainable creative practice.

The data collated in this report is from 2019-20, prior to the devastating effects of the pandemic. Findings from this report show that organisations have been trailblazing environmental action and a green recovery plan must be put in place to meet their ambition and to continue to support environmental responsibility across the sector. Thankfully, the Government’s £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund, the biggest one-off investment in culture from the Government in history, has ensured that over 5,000 organisations and sites from across the arts, cultural and heritage sectors survived, including many organisations committed to environmental action. As the sector is at last able to reopen for visitors and audiences, the data in this report is a benchmark of the progress already made and what more can be achieved.

A clear success of the Arts Council’s collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle demonstrated in the report is the Spotlight Programme, developed in 2018. This programme offers targeted support to a small number of the largest National Portfolio Organisations – who are responsible for half the portfolio’s total carbon emissions – helping them reduce their environmental impact. The Spotlight group (which includes organisations like the National Theatre, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and the Royal Opera House) is the first cluster of major cultural organisations to set decarbonisation targets, in order to reach net zero carbon and has reduced its energy use emissions by 18% in 2019/20. This demonstrates that a science-based approach, underpinned by collaboration and peer-learning, works.

Other key findings in the report include:

● Comparing the 346 buildings, for which consistent data was provided in 2018-19 and 2019-20, total energy use emissions (electricity and gas combined) decreased by 12%.

● A quarter of cultural organisations are now procuring green energy and investment in green tech is up 4%; 17% of organisations now benefit from renewable technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels and electric vehicles (or EV charging points).

● 70% of Arts Council NPOs are on the way to eliminating single-use plastic and business vehicle ownership is increasingly discouraged in favour of car club schemes and low-emission taxi services (29%, up by 8% compared to 2018-19).

● 99% of Arts Council NPOs consider it important that Arts Council England continues to help NPOs deliver a more environmentally sustainable future.

● Being environmentally responsible brings significant value to organisations, through financial savings, boosting staff morale and reputational benefits; many organisations are also factoring climate change into their creative programming, engaging their audiences directly with these issues.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said:

“Sustaining the environment is an urgent priority for us all. As we emerge from the pandemic, Arts Council England has adopted Environmental Responsibility as one of the principles that will guide our investment of funds. We remain committed to giving the necessary support to the creative and cultural sector so that it can be at the forefront of leading change on these issues. Although the data presented in this report reflects a time pre-pandemic, it still shows that the organisations we fund are leading by example, making marked changes to the way they work and reducing their environmental impact as a result. We will continue to strive for further progress.”

Alison Tickell, CEO, Julie’s Bicycle, said:

“Arts Council England’s Environmental Programme has been building up to this moment: eight years of foundational work that is empowering arts and culture to take action by leading, collaborating, communicating and creating. Decarbonisation at scale and speed, adaptation, restoring what has been lost and centring on justice and fairness, for people and nature, are at the heart of it all. COP26 is almost upon us, and the recent IPCC Report is unequivocal: this is the red alert for humanity. If culture has a vocation, this is it.”

The report is available to download online from Julie’s Bicycle and Arts Council England. Find out more about Arts Council England’s Environmental Programme here.