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Festivals and climate change

Photo by Jere Keys

The announcement that Grammy-winner Joss Stone would be the first artist to balance emissions from her “Total World Tour” with Energy Revolution put climate change in the festivals industry back in the spotlight. Access talked to Tom Smallwood, trustee of Energy Revolution, to learn about the carbon footprint of the industry and what can be done to help reduce its effect.

The Show Must Go On report by Powerful Thinking detailed exactly how and where festivals contribute to climate change. The study revealed that 80 per cent of these emissions are from travel.

Operating as a charity, Energy Revolution gives support to organisations in reducing emissions from audiences, suppliers and artists. It also helps to calculate, account for and balance the emissions from travel and turn them into an investment in 100 per cent clean, renewable energy.

Today, Energy Revolution is comprised of 24 festival partners and five supplier members. Its board of trustees includes festival organisers Chris Johnson (Shambala), Chris Rutherford (Boomtown), Ollie Stroud (Secret Garden Party) and Ben Robinson (Kendall Calling).

The charity has enabled festival audiences to balance over three million travel miles so far with balancing donations being invested in renewable energy projects in India (wind power and reforestation) and Bristol (solar). Joss Stone’s tour turned 2.7 million travel miles into an investment in wind power and reforestation in India’s Tamil Nadu.

Festival of change

The 2015 Paris climate agreement set the UK a target of a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. In order to achieve this, every industry must acknowledge its own impacts and set out a plan to make those reductions.

Tom Smallwood

“The festival industry in the UK is by its very nature a hotbed of radical creativity with a pioneering spirit – so who better to lead the way in tackling the greatest challenge of our age?” commented Smallwood.

Smallwood is director of artist booking agency Diplomats of Sound and festival venue Chai Wallahs.

Why is important to balance carbon emission?

TS: First and foremost we must be striving to reduce emissions, and that’s why Energy Revolution is launching a Guide to Sustainable Travel and Transport for Festivals & Events (launched end of October 2017) to support the industry in reducing emissions from audience travel.

We must identify where these emissions are occurring, calculate and account for them, and turn them into an investment in 100 per cent clean, renewable energy. It’s only by scaling up investment in renewable energy infrastructure that we will set ourselves on the path to a low carbon economy.

What organisers can do and what they get out of this initiative?

TS: Events, venues and festivals can sign up via the website and Energy Revolution will give support in setting up the balancing donations option on their ticket sales page. It’s free and easy for events to get audiences carbon balancing their travel, and we’ll provide all the support they need. Suppliers, artists and agencies can also sign up.

Which renewable energy projects are part of the initiative?

TS: Energy Revolution invests donations in sustainable energy initiatives to replace dirty, non-renewable forms of energy such as coal and oil with sustainable, clean energy solutions such as wind and solar energy. In doing so, festivals and festivalgoers can turn their fossil fuel travel miles into clean energy, and help keep the party going forever.

Balancing act

Smallwood told Access that the donations to balance over a million travel miles with Energy Revolution in 2016 have now been invested with Bristol Energy Co-op (BEC), a community-owned energy cooperative, growing Greater Bristol’s local green energy supply and making the benefits available to all.

BEC develops renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, and helps others to do the same. “Audience donations are having a huge impact with BEC helping to run a 4.2MW solar farm at Lawrence Weston as well as supporting their work installing solar panels on six community buildings and purchasing another solar farm in Somerset,” Smallwood explained.

Bristol is home to many of the festival partners and audiences of Energy Revolution so this donation is coming full circle. The initiative is taking the negative of carbon emissions and turning it into clean energy, produced in communities that benefits everyone.