On a wet and wild evening on the 10th of December 2019, almost a hundred people gathered together to share their plans for COP26, discuss their goals, and make new connections and plans, accompanied by cocktails and snacks. This page records the speakers and discussion and provides links for further resources and information.
COP26 will be the 26th annual UN climate conference, probably the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement (2015). For COP26 decision makers from governments around the world will converge on Glasgow to measure progress and set targets for the future. In addition COPs have become a flashpoint for environmental protests and civic engagement – as well as fossil fuel lobbying. This event provided an opportunity to hear speakers present their plans for the COP and space for free-form discussion and opportunities to record ideas on whiteboards positioned around the room.
Recordings of all the speakers are available as a podcast.
Ben Twist from Creative Carbon Scotland kicked off the evening with some reflections on his experiences of creative engagement with COPs in the past. He emphasised some of the challenges that need to be overcome, such as:
- getting access to the COP itself, or even close to its venues, especially given that most of the decisions announced at each COP will have already been made in advance.
- the problems with getting a message through during the COP itself given the many other events and news stories to compete with.
- the difficulty overcoming the divide between artistic interventions and the actual negotiations that take place at the COP, with the potential for these to barely interact.
- how to engage members of the public and show what they can actually do.
Ben stressed that arts and culture do have a lot to offer as a means of engaging international and local communities or decision makers and can take advantage of the spike in awareness that will come with the presence of the COP to spread their reach more widely, especially during the run-up to the COP. He recommended subscribing to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin as a means of keeping up to speed with developments and looking at Season for Change as a planned major programme of artistic engagement with COP26. He also recommended attending the Creative Carbon Scotland Cultural Adaptations conference taking place in Glasgow just before COP26.
Chris Fremantle from ecoartscotland followed this with a different approach, involving attendees in a performance of an extract from eco-artists Helen and Newton Harrison’s Lagoon Cycle. He also quoted Helen Harrison in saying
‘Our work begins when we perceive an anomaly in the environment that is the result of opposing beliefs or contradictory metaphors. Moments when reality no longer appears seamless and the cost of belief has become outrageous offer the opportunity to create new spaces – first in the mind and thereafter in everyday life.’
and discussed their idea of the ‘Urgency of the Moment’, emphasising that decisions made within this ten-year period will have repercussions over a far longer time-span.
We then heard elevator pitches from:
- Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is a coalition of around 50 NGOs, charities, and community organisations around Scotland who are coordinating a wider coalition of civil society organisations working towards COP26. They are creating a network of hosts to look after people coming to the COP from abroad and are organising a civil society hub around Charing Cross Glasgow that will be open for anyone to use. They are also creating an online platform that will allow organisations to publicise what they are doing. Nick stressed the importance of arts organisations sharing space with scientific or environmental organisations and of facilitating greater diversity than will be present within the COP itself. He recommended joining their mailing list to keep up to date.
- Manchester Science Festival is organised by the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and is specifically targeted at audiences without particular science expertise. The 2020 instalment will focus on the theme of climate change science and making the subject engaging and real for non-specialists using the question ‘How do we change how we live?’. They are interested in bringing the work organised as part of this festival to Glasgow as part of the COP and co-commissioning work.
- Glasgow National Park City is a volunteer-run organisation seeking to have Glasgow follow in the footsteps of London by becoming a ‘National Park City’ to emphasise the importance of green spaces and wildlife as an essential part of a sustainable city and facilitate connections between different environmental projects in Glasgow, allowing them to build pressure on decisions makers from the grassroots. They aim to use COP26 as a means of publicising and growing this idea, emphasising the importance of cities for sustainable living in the future.
- Creative Climate Symposium is a planned two-day symposium bringing together academics, scientists, artists, and designers to foreground the importance of sustainable design, using the presence of COP26 as an opportunity to bring people together. They are also in conversation with Glasgow School of Art,Zero Waste Scotland and RSA Scotland to develop a design residency leading into the symposium.
- Ellie Harrison is an artist and activist whose work has frequently engaged with the climate crisis and travel, looking at ways to improve public transport in order to reduce inequality and carbon emissions. She is looking to use COP26 to highlight the integrated public transport campaign ‘Get Glasgow Moving‘, particularly trying to get public transport made free in Glasgow for the ten days during COP26 and organising a car free day. She will also be bringing an art project called Early Warning Signs back to Glasgow and is looking for venues to ‘adopt’ a sign for the duration of the COP.
- RSPB’s ‘Giving nature a home in Glasgow’ project are working in partnership with Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and are looking to focus their work in 2020 on COP26, planning events for British Science Week in March, working with the Natural History Museums Network, and hoping to put on a collaborative art project with local communities. They are also involved in organising ‘City Nature Challenge’, an international competition to record as many species within an urban environment as possible, at the end of April. They are planning a youth conference in October, bringing together young people from communities across Glasgow to discuss how to make local communities better for people and nature.
- Brendan Hill of Edinburgh data visualisation meetup group talked about their plans to run a conference on data visualisation to coincide with the conference, which will include an associated exhibition featuring creative means of presenting climate change data. He also discussed plans to put on an open air theatrical performance as a means of articulating clearly the state of climate crisis.
- Dundee City of Design were unable to make it on the night due to bad weather but are looking for collaborators for their ‘The Future We Want’ project. This will be a large scale global event, produced and curated by young people from across the UNESCO Creative City network, culminating in a parade and exhibition of placards and banners made with the help of professional artists and writers,
You can listen to a recording of these talks as a podcast.
Artist, Julia Barton also sent us a video about her plans for the COP with a call for collaborators, which can be viewed below:
Notes made during the discussion
Some of the most important themes to come out of the discussion were:
- The importance of planning engagement events in the lead-up to and after the COP itself to take advantage of a spike in awareness. Zero Waste Scotland, Glasgow Science Centre, RSPB, Scottish Youth Theatre, and others are planning for this.
- The brief period during COP26 was agreed by many to be a more appropriate time for creative protests or hosting alternative or ‘people’s’ events.
- There was strong agreement that work should have a strong Climate Justice angle and involve working with minorities that are being most affected by climate change.
- There was somewhat of a divide between those who wanted to focus on engaging ‘ordinary’ members of the public and those who wanted to influence those in positions of power: decision makers, businesses, finance. Both of these are important, but they require very different approaches so having a good understanding of who your work is aimed at is clearly essential.
- There was a lot of interest in collaborating across disciplines as a means of reaching new people or sharing ideas in new ways. This will require good communication and an understanding of the differing agendas that people might have coming from different backgrounds.
Below is a transcript of the images for easier reading. Pluses (+) indicate where others have shown their agreement with an idea using ticks or stars.
When are you planning for?
Before the COP
- Around July:
- National tour Scottish Youth Theatre National Ensemble new theatre work on climate change
- Around October:
- Junior COP
- End Oct exhibition
- ‘Sense of here’ exhibition opening in Cumbria
- Model UN (Glasgow Science Centre), Citizen science
- Tie in with COP-in-Italy pre-event
- Zero Waste Scotland: series of events raising awareness of the role of ‘consumption emissions’ in climate emergency
- Glasgow science centre run a series of workshops on weather, climate, climate change for community groups so people can engage with topics/politics/activism globally and locally
- Glasgow Science centre ’Our World’ adult science late
- Video speaking to people on the street about their climate change big issues. Play this at the COP.
During the COP
- Conference and exhibition on visualising climate change
- Large scale street theatre/climate change demonstration (thing Olympic opening ceremony)
- Youth hub at Scottish Youth Theatre studios (Merchant City)
- Artistic demonstration as close as possible to SEC urging decision makers to commit to more meaningful action. This worked with the Scottish Climate Bill! (Contact Glasgow Science Centre)
- Using community spaces for debate and rest <3 Museums <3
- Make placards and distribute
After the COP
- Around January:
- COP/Cumbria and overlapping Here’s event at Cumbria uni
- Build on climate consciousness boom to influence businesses to change
- How do we feed into Scottish Government and Glasgow City cultural policies?
Who do you want to work with?
- Community energy groups (e.g. Glasgow community energy)
- Film makers
- Heritage organisations
- Festivals (Glasgow, Edinburgh) +
- Extinction Rebellion
- Friends of the Earth (Scotland)
- Art not Oil Groups (e.g. BP or not BP)
- Collaborators for exhibition- public engagement in climate issues
- Woodland Trust and similar
- Policy Makers
- Minorities ++
- Community groups +
- Glasgow Science Centre
- Schools +
- Cultural Innovators
- Indigenous peoples
- Like-minded international networks
What are the most important issues to work on?[It looks like somebody leaned on this one so I’ve reconstructed what I can]
- Carbon footprint target in line with net zero target (ie consumption and production emissions accounting) (75% of emissions related to consumption of resources, and 50% of those emissions produced abroad) (Zero Waste Scotland) +
- Widespread acceptance of the reality of a low carbon society +++
- Language and awareness: what is climate/climate change, why it matters to all of us
- Climate justice and awareness of the climate debt owed by rich countries to the global south and marginalised people. Stronger carbon reduction targets for developed countries and compensation to developing countries +++++
- Cultural regeneration [in areas historically connected with oil production], e.g. Aberdeen, Shetland
- Communicate the facts – Science Library
- Advice – what can people actually do
- Making climate change accessible for all audiences
- [Connecting to] things that ‘feel’ more important right now – austerity etc.
- CCA open for partnerships
Who do you want to influence?
- Younger generation: kids, teens, young adults 1 +
- Governments and public institutions ++
- Financial institutions +
- Business community and management organisations ++
- The people currently in/with power [pointing to previous three]
- Communities – everyday people +
- Other artists around the world and festivals
- ‘We are a world of altruists led by psychopaths’. These people [arrow to ‘altruists’] to overcome these people [arrow to ‘psychopaths’].
What are your goals?
- To use digital arts and social media as a tool for collective and inclusive climate action across Glasgow +
- To integrate art for cross disciplinary discussions
- Play a role in behavioural change
- Make public feeling tangible so politicians and corporations find the pressure to act irresistible
- To give young artists a platform to be heard +
- Making the ripples spread out further +
- To reduce business’s climate impact in Glasgow
- To raise awareness and action, reducing consumption related emissions
- Create exhibition to engage general public on climate issues
- To inform accessibly, organisations and public
Green Tease is a network and ongoing informal events programme, connecting creative practices and environmental sustainability across Scotland. Creative Carbon Scotland runs the Green Tease Open Call, which is a funded opportunity supporting sustainability practitioners and artists to exchange ideas, knowledge and practices with the aim of building connections and widening understanding of the role of arts in influencing a more sustainable society.
Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.
In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.
We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.
Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:
Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.
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