Inspiring a greener creative industry: music and the arts at COP26

29 October 2021, 17:14 | Updated: 1 November 2021, 11:29

RSNO are set to perform during COP26
RSNO are set to perform during COP26. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Ahead of United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, we’re taking a look at some of the musicians, artists and writers who are doing their bit to make a change to the world.

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As leaders from 196 countries gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), environmentally-minded creatives from across the world are using the event to highlight the changes they’re making to the profession due to the climate crisis.

Over recent years in the music world, there has been a growing discussion regarding what the industry can do to change the way it works to help the planet.

Musicians across all genres have made public promises to introduce initiatives designed to mitigate touring’s environmental impact.

For example pop superstars Coldplay recently pledged that their 2022 world tour would cut CO2 emissions by 50% compared with their 2016-17 world tour, and their stage show would be powered by almost entirely renewable energy.

Read More: The world’s pioneering orchestras using classical music to respond to the climate crisis

Music at COP26

Classical musicians such as Classic FM's Orchestra is Scotland, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) will be marking the pivotal conformance with a series of performances addressing the climate crisis during the 2-week summit.

The RSNO’s Autumn Season has a theme of exploring the natural world and climate, and amidst COP26 the orchestra will be performing works such as Dvořák’s New World Symphony, and Ustwolskaja's Dies irae performed by the virtuosic violinist, Patricia Kopatchinskaja. The orchestra will also release a new recording of Haydn’s The Creation on the 3rd November.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra performs at Classic FM Live
Royal Scottish National Orchestra performs at Classic FM Live. Picture: Alamy

The Green Zone at the conference will host over 200 events, including performances from groups such as the RSNO Junior Chorus, who will perform songs inspired by climate change, the Children’s Eco Choir, who made a name for themselves on Britain’s Got Talent in 2020, and Musicians In Exile, Glasgow’s asylum-seeking and refugee musicians, who will perform new compositions detailing climate change’s impact on refugees. Some events are available to watch for free on the conference’s YouTube channel.

The zone will also be host to a performance of playwright, Nick Drake’s, The Farewell Glacier on the 12th November. This book of poems about the creative’s journey to the North Pole has been turned into a 40-minute poetry performance piece in collaboration with Scottish composers Emma Donald and Isbel Pendlebury.

Things are also happening off the stage. Encore Musicians, is a musician bookings platform, and ahead of the climate conference they announced their desire to be the most climate-friendly way to book musicians in the world.

“As a musician booking agency, we’re painfully aware that we’re responsible for thousands of kgs of CO2 going into the atmosphere every year - mostly in the form of emissions from musicians travelling to gigs.” says Jonny Venvell, Head of Growth at Encore Musicians.

“So to mark COP26, we’re proud to say we’ve radically changed how we do business - we’re now the first-ever carbon negative music agency. That means that for every musician booked, the amount of carbon we offset is higher than the amount emitted.”

To do this, the agency says they're paying to double offset their artists’ travel emissions, plant a tree for every booking, and offset the footprint of the entire Encore team.

“By the end of 2022, our aim is to have planted an Encore forest of 20,000 trees!”, Venvell adds, “my hope is that this will catalyse change across the music industry and we’ll begin to see carbon offsetting travel as standard for all musicians.”

Art and sculpture at COP26

Other creatives have also been inspired by COP26 to do their bit for the environment.

British musician and composer, Brian Eno, will also be hosting a discussion titled ‘Arts and the Imagination’ on the 12th November which will explore the role of artists and the arts in responding to the environmental emergency.

The visual arts are also represented, with six eco works having popped-up around Glasgow in time for the international climate conference. These pieces of art are described by the event organisers as a “reminder for city dwellers of environmental concerns” and the “imperatives of the ongoing climate crisis”.

One of the works is a 10ft-high polar bear sculpture which has made its way from Shropshire all the way to Scotland on a 306-mile trip over the past few weeks.