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Creative Scotland says it will expect all funding recipients to demonstrate how their work contributes to making the sector carbon neutral by 2045.


Oliver Dixon

Future funding for Scottish arts organisations will be tied to commitments to cut their carbon emissions.  

Creative Scotland has announced plans to update guidance across all funds "so that conditions of funding ensure sector contribution to net zero targets and addressing the climate emergency", with an eye towards the sector becoming carbon neutral by 2045.

Changes outlined in the funder's Climate Emergency and Sustainability Plan will be introduced first for portfolio organisations when a delayed refresh of its approach to multi-year funding is set out later this year. 


Creative Scotland already requires all 121 of its regularly-funded organisations to produce plans to cut carbon emissions related to at least one aspect of their activities, but until now there has been no firm link between progress towards net zero and financial support. 

Kenneth Fowler, Director of Communications and External Relations at Creative Scotland, said exactly how the two will be linked is yet to be decided.

"What we are committed to is building criteria into our funding," he said. 

"All of our funding - not just the long-term funding for organisations, but in time, all of our funding - [will have] criteria that will help and encourage the culture sector to make that change and make a contribution to a more sustainable future. The details of that are yet to be determined, but the principle is now out there. We are going to do that."

'Workable and fair'

Fowler said Creative Scotland will work with the sector to ensure those criteria are "workable, but also fair". 

He said there won't be bespoke targets for individual organisations but rather sector-wide targets. 

"Obviously there are organisations within certain parts of the culture sector that will be able to make a carbon reduction much more easily than others, and we need to recognise that.

"This has to be done in a fair way, as well as in a way that achieves the outcomes we seek."

He added that decisions on how funding could be affected by organisations' progress on the net zero goal have not yet been made.

"We are still to work that through. But certainly what we will be expecting is for all recipients of our funding to demonstrate how their work and their operations are contributing to the net zero target.

"What we have experienced in the culture sector across Scotland is a huge willingness to engage with this. That is evidenced in the number of organisation beyond those that we fund on a regular basis that have engaged already with carbon reporting and improved sustainable practice." 

Walking the walk 

Creative Scotland itself plans to become carbon neutral by 2030.

As part of the overall plan, the funder will recruit three people to form a new internal climate change team. Job descriptions and staff development plans will be revised to include climate and sustainability requirements, and sustainability training for staff will be developed. 

Caro Overy, Green Arts Manager at Creative Carbon Scotland, is working alongside Creative Scotland to deliver the plan. She said Scotland's 121 regularly funded organisations have been reporting their emissions since 2014/15 and have had carbon management plans since 2018.

Together, they have saved an estimated 900 tonnes of CO2 over the past three years - the equivalent of growing 45,000 trees for a year.

While Creative Carbon Scotland is happy with the progress, it represents less than the 10% annual reduction necessary to move towards Creative Scotland’s 2045 target.

"Even during some of the more difficult years we have seen recently we have still seen a continued enthusiasm to engage with this and walk the walk when it comes to carbon reduction," Overy said.

"The development of the climate emergency and sustainability plan is a good piece of work that will bring about a lot more positive change."

In November last year it emerged that about a fifth of organisations funded through Arts Council England's (ACE) portfolio failed to report on their emissions levels each year since 2012/13 despite it being a funding condition.