If arts organisations continue to decrease emissions at the current rate, they will be 46% lower in 2019/20 than in 2012/13, a report by Julie’s Bicycle has found.

Cornelia Parkers War Room
Cornelia Parker's War Room, The Whitworth
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© David Levene

Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) have saved £8.7m by cutting greenhouse gas emissions since 2012/13, according to a major new report by environmental charity Julie’s Bicycle.

10,578 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases have been released – a fall of 10% – despite a growth in the number of NPOs surveyed, an increase in cultural activity, and a broadening of the range of environmental impacts being reported.

“This report demonstrates the ongoing success of light-touch policy to prompt environmental understanding and meaningful actions that reinforce national and international climate targets,” the report says.

“Tackling climate change has never been more urgent.”

Financial benefits

The report draws on data submitted via an online reporting tool, an evaluation survey and case studies, ultimately concluding environmental action is making the sector more financially resilient.

Compared to doing nothing, the reduction in energy emissions has saved £8.7m since 2012/13. The report predicts that if the 4.5% annual decrease continues until 2019/20, emissions will be 46% lower than in 2012/13 and £54m will have been saved in energy costs.

Alongside a fall in the overall emissions output, and a fall in the amount of electricity and gas used, there has been a 210% growth in the generation of on-site renewable energy since the project started in 2012/13.

Artistic engagement

98% of England’s NPOs are now engaged with Julie’s Bicycle’s programme. The report found that 37% of these had produced, programmed or curated work on environmental themes, with a further 28% planning or exploring possibilities to do so.

It highlights a rise in the number of arts organisations taking an ethical stance on fossil fuel fundraising – demonstrated by recent rejections of oil sponsorship – and concludes the emphasis on environmental sustainability has led to increased knowledge-sharing between cultural organisations internationally.

Future plans

Julie’s Bicycle pledges to develop Arts Council England’s (ACE) approach to environmental sustainability at the operational, planning and policy development levels. The report praises ACE’s influence as a “major driver for green capital improvements”, by requiring its capital grants programme to be linked to environmental sustainability.

For arts organisations, it recommends establishing more in-depth monitoring and measurement schemes, communicating environmental achievements more widely, and prioritising both an ‘absolute reduction’ in energy use and a shift to clean energy.

Commenting on the findings, Alison Tickell, CEO of Julie’s Bicycle, said: “As the first national council in the world to introduce environmental reporting for its regularly funded organisations, the Arts Council has been a major driver for unlocking the sector’s contribution to environmental responsibility. This report demonstrates the response taking place, and the sector’s potential to engage the public, design solutions and initiate a shift in cultural values to support a more sustainable future.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of ACE, added: “Our collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle is introducing us all to new ways of working. Our funding supports not only the mechanics of compliance – the environmental reporting tools, help and support but also thought-leadership. We all believe that art and culture can make the world a better place; this programme shows how our actions can make a real difference.”

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