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Culture and the Climate Emergency

5 Priorities for World Cities in the post-covid recovery period
22.04.2021

​In our sixth WCCF COVID-19 Impact and Policy Bulletin we looked at how COVID-19 is affecting climate action plans for culture. We found three main areas of impact.

Positive and negative impacts:

  • Lockdowns have reduced industrial activity and travel, reducing greenhouse gases and pollutants. There has been less pressure on ecological systems, as well as increased engagement with nature during the pandemic.
  • However, there is increased use of single use plastic and medical waste, and risks of carbon emissions rebound as industries return to ‘business as usual’.
  • Longterm behavioural changes are not yet clear – there is an opportunity for governments to shape and support positive behavioural and attitude shifts.

Intensified challenges for cities and culture:

  • Competing priorities with limited resources has impacted on environmental action and forward planning.
  • Missed opportunities to embed green recovery in COVID-19 responses.
  • Culture is facing a crisis of survival, with severe impacts of lockdowns and loss of work across the sector. With reduced workforce, internal capacity and environmental skills have been lost.

New policy challenges:

  • How can policy makers find a common ground between mainstream economic restart objective and climate action?

We identified five priorities for cities in the recovery period:

Limit emissions rebound

Drive collaboration

  • Recovery provides opportunities for culture to collaborate
  • Cultural policy must align with local social and environmental strategies; urban design; education and distance-learning; digital services; tourism; employment and reskilling
  • This also presents opportunities to attract different types of funding

Support transition

  • Seize opportunities for growth in the low carbon and circular economy
  • Cultural organisations can maximise the opportunities of a ‘green recovery’ with support and capacity building

Align funding

  • Cultural recovery funding must be linked to environmental targets
  • Raise awareness of the value of culture among other public and private investors
  • Cultural spaces and programmes can influence audiences’ environmental behaviours

Revive engagement

  • Capture public interest in the transformational climate agenda
  • Culture provides many opportunities for targeted engagement and community building
  • Many cultural leaders are looking to go beyond ‘recovery’ and contribute to transformation on a more systemic level

Read more here. With thanks to our research partner Julie’s Bicycle.

Image credit: Unisphere, commissioned for the New York World’s Fair of 1964–65, courtesy of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs © Julienne Schaer