Edinburgh's festivals unveil 'essential' action plan to evolve to help tackle climate crisis

Edinburgh’s biggest festivals have vowed to tackle the climate crisis by cutting back on the use of flights, encouraging performers to spend longer in the city, urging audiences to make environmentally-friendly travel plans and considering watching events online rather than in-person.

By Brian Ferguson
Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 12:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:51 pm
Edinburgh's festivals have set out how they will be responding to the climate emergency ahead of the Cop 26 summit in Glasgow. Picture: Euan Myles
Edinburgh's festivals have set out how they will be responding to the climate emergency ahead of the Cop 26 summit in Glasgow. Picture: Euan Myles

A blueprint for the future of the city’s signature events, which will celebrate their 75th anniversary in 2022, admits it will be “essential for festivals to evolve their current form of operating.”

Creating new “net zero venues,” pursuing zero-carbon power supplies for outdoor events, cutting the amount of paper and print that is produced, and working with local catering companies that minimise packaging are among the key priorities set out in a new action plan.

Published ahead of the COP 26 climate change summit in Glasgow, the action plan has backed by the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe and the city’s Hogmanay, storytelling, jazz, science, book, film and visual art festivals.

Schemes being pursued include a deposit return scheme for reusable cups, which will be rolled out across the festivals, switching to vegan and vegetarian catering for some events, paperless ticketing, and helping artists and performs coming from Western Europe to travel by land.

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    The festivals have also pledged to use and promote accommodation providers "that can demonstrate their environmental credentials,” switch to fully renewable electricity suppliers for buildings owned or rented by the festivals, and commission more work tackling themes around climate change and environmental sustainability.

    The festivals have called in independent consultants to help measure their baseless emission figures and monitor how they are reduced over the next decade.The new action plan – Taking Action on Climate Change – states: "The global response to climate change means it is essential for festivals to evolve their current form of operating.

    "The historic Paris Agreement commits the world’s nations to limiting global heating through carbon emissions reductions.

    "The UK has committed to reducing emissions by the fastest rate of any major economy, and Scotland has legislated to reduce emissions by 75 per cent in under 10 years.

    "This will be achieved through changes in law, policy and financial incentives, which will prohibit or discourage carbon-intensive activities.

    "Public opinion and behaviour is also shifting quickly, with young people citing climate change as the most important issue of our time, 70 per cent of people in Scotland desiring stronger action on climate, and environmental action becoming increasingly important to festivalgoers.

    "If our festivals are to flourish in a net-zero carbon future, we need to find innovative, sustainable ways of operating and fulfilling the function of festivals, providing time and space for people to exchange ideas and celebrate our common humanity.”Festivals Edinburgh chair Sorcha Carey said: “The work outlined today builds on the festival’s long term commitment to minimising our environmental impact, as seen through the earlier creation of a green venue guide and our role in founding Creative Carbon Scotland, in conjunction with the Federation of Scottish Theatre and the

    Scottish Contemporary Art Network.

    "Our actions, at both a collective and individual festival level, are aimed at helping Edinburgh achieve its goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and thus address one of the most important issues of our time.”