Time to set serious standards

With tackling climate change an ever more urgent goal, the German constitutional court has ruled that the government must instate concrete, long-term measures, going beyond 2030, to protect coming generations. What role can and should the arts play in climate protection? Being federally structured, Germany has no national arts ministry. But it has some state-run cultural institutions, such as the Humboldt Forum, the Berlin State Opera, various memorials – and the Federal Arts Foundation, which organizes projects in all fields of the arts. One of its projects looks at the ecological footprints of arts institutions.  BTR talked to the Federal Arts Foundation’s artistic director, Hortensia Völckers, and project director Sebastian Brünger to find out more. 

Bühnentechnische Rundschau

The Federal Arts Foundation recently launched a project encouraging arts facilities across Germany to work out their ecological and carbon footprints. The goal was to try out methods of calculating climate balances in the arts field – to supply arts facilities with practical tools for assessing their emissions and show them ways of working toward climate neutrality.

Over the pilot project’s four-month duration, 19 participating institutions were not only helped to draw up balances but also coached on how to handle their in-house knowledge transfer about making their activities more ecological. Each facility then had the tools to calculate their values, which now serve both as locational statistics and the basis for developing institutions’ individual strategies. Rather than eco-rivalry, the project aimed to foster cooperation between the various facilities on learning and analysing their different situations. For the Federal Arts Foundation, it was also about finding out how to anchor criteria of ecological sustainability more firmly within its subsidy system. The Foundation also calculated the ecological footprints of its own premises in Halle and Berlin during the project, which it funded with a total of 120,000 Euros. 
Hortensia Völckers, artistic director of the Federal Arts Foundation says: “It is important to discuss the conditions in which arts work takes place in the face of climate change, to review them and reshape them together. And if changes are to have a long-term effect, locations need to be assessed. The positive response of all 19 participating institutions has encouraged us to continue along this path.” 
The pilot project was carried out on a cooperative basis. With this ‘convoy’ procedure, the participating organizations, each assisted by advisers, could share their experiences, and learn from each other. The pilot group was put together by the Federal Arts Foundation with the goal of representing as broad a spectrum of arts facilities in Germany as possible. It included facilities for different genres, of various sizes and locations, and with different degrees of experience of dealing with ecological issues. 
The European Commission’s Green New Deal sets out the goal of bringing net greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2050. Germany aims to reduce its own emissions by 55% by 2030 in comparison to 1990. Those are high targets that can only be achieved if they are tackled on all levels of society – and that includes in the arts. 
In concrete terms, the pilot project encouraged the participating institutions to find out the size of their carbon footprint, where the emissions are caused, and where significant improvements can be made. It worked out climate balances according to the international standard set by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG), which differentiates between direct, indirect, and upstream and downstream emissions. Consequently, the following sources of emissions in 2019 were most closely analysed: infrastructure (electricity and water consumption, heating/air conditioning, waste), mobility (distances travelled by staff, visitors, artists, and for equipment/deliveries) and acquisitions (for workshops, administration, and catering). Using these data, the figures for each facility were recorded and analysed, to identify where there is potential for reductions and to work out recommendations for action. 
The findings of the pilot project were assessed and published online by the end of April this year. On the Federal Arts Foundation’s website, readers can find helpful hints on, e.g., how to draw up a climate balance sheet as well as many facts and figures, and specialist articles, on the subject. The publication is now available to download free of charge.                                             

BTR Sonderband 2021
Rubrik: English texts, Seite 124
von Eva Behrendt and Karin Winkelsesser

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