Art and creativity’s leading role in addressing climate change

Art and creativity's leading role in addressing climate change - a blog from Iain Munro

“We need to have courage, doubt slows us down” was the rousing take-away from a fellow participant at our recent Climate Change:Culture Change Summit.

It speaks of hope as we approach COP26 and our ongoing work to support the role that art and creativity plays – and must play to ever greater effect – in developing action-driven solutions to the climate emergency that we all face.

Over the past six years we’ve been working with Creative Carbon Scotland to help arts and cultural organisations reduce their environmental impact. Their leadership in carbon management and reporting, as well as their stewardship of a wide range of creative initiatives like Green Arts and Culture Shift, have been instrumental in mainstreaming carbon management in the arts and culture sector. This work also led to the standardisation of environmental reporting and Carbon Management Plans in our own long-term funding agreements with arts organisations from 2015.

Collectively we’ve been able to increase understanding about the role of the sector in addressing environmental issues and associated social challenges.

The collective approach is working. Between 2015 and 2019, we’ve seen a reduction of around one third in the total emissions amongst regularly funded organisations. More broadly, we can see a real appetite in Scotland’s creative sector to lead the way in its collaborative work and collective responsibility for improving sustainability and addressing climate change.

Playing a crucial role in our society – art and creativity make us healthier, our economy stronger and our communities more inclusive and vibrant. Art and creativity have the power to inform opinion, inspire action, challenge and, ultimately, change behaviour and in these critical times, their influence is needed now more than ever.

Certainly, as we anticipate COP26 in Glasgow, the growing response from Scotland’s cultural community is helping to ensure that the climate emergency is kept front and centre.  Projects like:

  • The Climate Beacons, a major national initiative bringing together creative and environmental groups and organisations to take action. For example, An Lanntair's new partnership with environmental and community groups across the Western Isles to embed community perspectives into the Islands’ climate adaptation plan
  • Thousands of people are creating 90 second films, responding to the climate emergency and how it’s affecting us, our surroundings, families and communities as part of Film Access Scotland’s Climate Challenge
  • Leading designers, building environmentalists, architects and heritage organisations are raising public understanding of the difference that can be made through more responsible approaches to design and construction at Edinburgh’s SpACE forum
  • Multi-disciplinary arts venue SWG3 is working with energy geothermalists and engineers to improve the venue’s sustainability using a radical new system BODYHEAT which will capture and transform the enormous amounts of energy generated by people at SWG3’s gigs and clubs;
  • and across Caithness and East Sutherland, Lyth Arts Centre and the University of Highlands & Islands’ Environmental Research Institute are collaborating with young people and local groups to challenge the prevailing consensus on land and climate justice through radical acts of imagination.

Tackling the climate emergency requires major societal change, and at pace.

A shift in how we think, our values, and indeed, our entire culture. As Scotland’s lead national body supporting art and creativity across Scotland, the creative response to this crisis is our core business. We all have a vital role to play and want to work together with partners across the creative sector and beyond to help bring about the changes required.

After all, there is no greater challenge facing us and our life on this planet.