As devastating heatwaves and storms continue to batter the continent, cultural organisations are calling on the EU to more fully integrate the arts into its efforts to tackle the climate emergency. In a new report from the European Commission's “Voices of Culture” initiative, sectors like music, design and heritage lay out an ambitious vision for how creative skills and community-driven solutions could be deployed at scale.
And for good reason - the cultural sector itself must urgently reduce its climate footprint. As one supporting case highlighted, 16 international cultural networks have come together in a SHIFT certification pilot to develop transparent eco-standards for their operations. Addressing travel and events as primary carbon sources, the year-long process aims to integrate sustainability metrics into networks' governance practices.
“We recognise the profound changes societies will face in becoming sustainable. Our professional role is to vividly imagine new futures and empower citizens to shape them,” notes the report. The study identifies "social imaginaries" - collectively envisioning alternative green worlds through storytelling and visualisation - as a power the cultural realm is uniquely placed to wield. It proposes initiatives like open commissions for climate-focused art and "Creative Environmental Protocol" platforms to align activities across borders.
Perhaps most significantly, it calls on Brussels to embed artists, curators and performance groups directly into policymaking teams. A meaningful collaboration could unlock “integrated green solutions now possible when sectors cooperate openly” notes the report. The premise is backed by examples of creative-led initiatives bearing early fruit.
In Amsterdam, an online "Counter for Heritage and Sustainability" set citizens on paths to more sustainable renovations of the city's wealth of historic buildings. Recognizing that the city's thousands of historic buildings presented both a challenge and opportunity for sustainable development, municipal officials created an online portal providing information to support green initiatives from residents and organizations. By giving property-specific guidance on sustainable renovations and financing options, the counter has helped streamline formerly complex permitting processes, empowering citizens across the city to become agents of the green transition.
The Energy Cluster Denmark, a coordinating body for renewable initiatives, partners directly with creative studios. Combining cutting-edge technology with humanistic design thinking, projects like these point to integrated green solutions now possible when sectors collaborate openly.
SHIFT eco-certification pilot is a coalition of 16 European networks that have joined a certification pilot project to integrate sustainability into governance, to reduce emissions from international travel and large-scale events.
As climate impacts accelerate, building cross-disciplinary bonds is ever more pressing, the report stressed. With continued high-level commitment, culture's contribution to solving the planetary emergency could be amplified from the grassroots to the political summit. Whether EU leadership is prepared to grasp this opportunity fully remains to be seen, but for now, proponents of an artist-led green revolution are requesting a seat at the top table.
Read the full report here
We have reached a historical moment. The interrelated impacts of climate change on all aspects of life on the planet are causing damage that is becoming irreversible. Culture and creativity offer a source of innovation for climate change mitigation, hold the key to reshaping behaviours and living practices meaningfully and at scale, and are a source of principles and behaviours for societal resilience in the face of climate change effects.
The European Green Deal highlights the importance of the cultural sector in the implementation of specific and systematic efforts towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience across Europe by 2050. Two dimensions of the involvement of Culture and Creative Sectors and Industries (CCSI) in the green transition are evident: the cultural sector itself must modify the ways culture is produced since cultural activities and creative industries are among the most energy-intensive industries; and the cultural sector, if adequately and consistently supported, can engage and inspire people to imagine and co-create a viable, low carbon, just and sustainable future.
Culture is a catalyst, a driving force towards progress. A financially healthy cultural sector could become a vector in Europe, for the creation of a green vision that could set the foundations for the healing of the planet. Europe has an opportunity to put culture and the creative industries at the core of its competitiveness and its leadership in just transition and transformation to sustainability.
This Brainstorming Report recommends that the European Commission introduce new institutional forms of support and funding structures to empower CCSI to do what it can do best: to break with tradition and expectation, break rules, habits and practices, and replace them with new perspectives and forms. CCSI needs courageous, competent funding and policy enablement to be able to offer the courageous cultural interventions that a complex, multi-dimensional strategy such as the European Green Deal needs.
The European Commission Structured Dialogue platform Voices of Culture invited participants from 35 organisations, selected through an Open Call from the relevant sectors across Europe, to brainstorm over two days – 15 and 16 June 2023 – in Tartu, Estonia, to collect insights, experiences, and recommendations on this topic from civil society. The findings represented in the Brainstorming Report reveal a wealth of European initiatives to support the greening of CCSI and present several recommendations to build on and extend the effectiveness of those initiatives. The report is aimed at both cultural practitioners on local and national levels, and policymakers, providing both with useful tools and recommendations for their work. The report features a comprehensive summary section, providing an overview of the main points of each chapter.
The outcomes were presented and discussed with the European Commission (EC) on 6 September 2023. It is now published and shared with practitioners and stakeholders on local, national and EU levels.
Voices of Culture is funded by the European Commission and implemented by Goethe-Institut. Its main objective is to provide a channel for the voices from the cultural sector to be heard at EU and member state levels, and strengthen the advocacy capacity of the cultural sector in policy debates whilst encouraging the sector and the Commission to work more closely together.