Sustainable Music Charter: To lower the carbon footprint of the classical music industry

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According to the UN climate change report we need to reduce our fossil fuel use to near zero as soon as possible to prevent catastrophic climate change. Many musicians are engaged with environmental issues and are as green as possible in our personal lives, but most of us take a lot of work related flights. (Flying produces a terrifying amount of carbon; a return trip to New York emits the same amount as driving a car or heating a house in a Northern Europe for a whole year, putting the carbon into the upper atmosphere where its climate warming effect is multiplied by at least a factor of two).

The good news is that as our industry has a high carbon footprint, working together to reduce it could have a really big impact. We all love touring and want to bring our music to the widest possible audience, but we can make changes to how we tour.

The Sustainable Touring Charter

1 Orchestras/choirs to tour by train and coach wherever possible 

2 Eco travel options/travel to be offered as an option whenever possible even if some of the group have to fly

3 The carbon footprint of each tour to appear on the schedule, noting any reductions offered by eco travel options if offered

4 The carbon footprint of each tour to be discussed with the board of trustees at every stage of planning 

5 One off concerts in long haul destinations to be avoided

6 Travel to be organised in a geographically sensible manner if at all possible, including carbon footprint in the logistics planning

7 Arts and music festivals to work together to reduce carbon eg by doubling up programmes (eg if each flown in group does two or three programmes the number of flights could be halved) and working with other festivals to share artists to reduce the number of flights taken

8 The MU and ABO and their members to work with the management of orchestras/choirs to reduce carbon footprint across the industry. This includes a rethink of the late return/day off payment system which currently combines with cheap flights to discourage groups from making greener travel arrangements. We need an industry wide discussion to find a better way of dealing with this.

Musicians blogging and tweeting about their more eco travel arrangements could be really good publicity for groups that do adopt these policies. Because of the huge subsidies given to the aviation industry flying is often the cheapest option, so some eco travel options may be financially difficult for groups already struggling to stay afloat. We could set up a charity to raise money to help offset these costs. Anyone interested in helping with this, please get in touch. 

Speaking to my colleagues about these issues has been interesting; most of them are very worried about climate change and about our industry’s impact and feel powerless, but we’re not! We have huge collective power to make a positive change in the music industry.

Please link this to anyone you think might be interested, to the people who make the policy decisions in your group, to anyone you can think of, and put it on social media. If we all ask for these changes, we can make them happen.