Addressing environmental impacts of cultural events

New guide developed by Julie’s Bicycle and EUROCITIES

Leave a trace not a footprint

Across the world the effects of climate change and the destruction of nature are generating an unprecedented call to action. In October 2018, the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report called for “unprecedented changes” within the next 12 years in order to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. Climate change is an issue of global concern and people in positions of influence – politicians, investors, corporate business and city leaders – are being called on to act. In September 2019, 6 million people[1] took to the streets to join the biggest climate protest in history[2].

Nothing has had such a dramatic impact on carbon emissions over the past century as Covid-19 has in just a few short months. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that the world will use 6% less energy this year - equivalent to losing the entire energy demand of India, and analysis from Carbon Brief shows that emissions this year will fall by ~5.5%.

Two essential points: first, a pandemic is not the way to achieve a long-term and socially-just transition to sustainability; second, even 5.5% is still short of the 7.6% decline we should be willingly achieving each year over the next decade, to stop global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees.

The current emissions reduction is a blip, and countries are already seeking to reboot their economies through rolling back environmental safeguarding initiatives to spur economic growth. Now more than ever a new industrial strategy is needed to meet our current and future environmental challenges, prioritising a new economy of green jobs, skills and infrastructure. Cutting pollution rapidly and efficiently and investing in alternative, cleaner sources of energy will be key in reaching our climate goals - and taking a science-based approach to target setting will ensure organisations, cities and states can model and monitor their ongoing performance.

Cities are uniquely placed in the race against climate change, and culture has an essential role to play in imagining and creating changes and can lead cities to a more sustainable future. This new guide will set out the drivers for green governance as they apply to cultural events – and how event organisers can put the procedures, policies and practices in place so that sustainable events can run smoothly. The guide takes its readers on a journey through the key environmental impact areas of cultural events and where to start in managing and reducing them – demonstrated by a diversity of case studies from across Europe. Topics include: energy, waste, noise, transport, water, biodiversity and procurement.

The role of sustainable events in cultural heritage cities

City events bring together countless different groups of citizens (and visitors), and provide cities with an opportunity to showcase and celebrate their cultural heritage and present-day achievements. As such, they provide a platform to inspire and engage audiences, share knowledge, build a sense of community, enhance the local economy and stimulate inward-investment.

More and more cities are setting ambitious climate change reduction targets and developing action plans covering all sectors. Outdoor events link with many crucial systems involved in these action plans, including: mobility, waste, energy, sanitation, and food. Event planning brings together range of stakeholders – including urban policy-makers, local businesses, artists, and citizens – providing an ideal platform to galvanise environmental leadership and work together to manage the environmental impacts of events, and identify opportunities for events to contribute positively to sustainable urban development.

The guide will be translated into further EU languages – watch this space!

ROCK Green Streams

Complimenting this informative new guide, EUROCITIES and Julie’s Bicycle delivered a series of webinars on good green governance, environmental impact management, and communicating sustainability. In collaboration with practitioners and thought-leaders across Europe, these three episodes look at how cities can initiate, support and encourage cultural events and activities to reduce their environmental impact. The full series is now available here:


Author: Latham Lucy - JB