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Sustainability heads name top priority for live in 2023

On the eve of Earth Day, leaders from AGF, Yourope, Shambala and CUR8 Carbon Removals discuss the immediate next steps for the live music industry

By Lisa Henderson on 21 Apr 2023


Tomorrow (22 April) is the 74th Earth Day, an annual event to raise awareness of environmental issues. To mark the occasion, IQ asked leaders from AGF, Yourope, Shambala and CUR8 Carbon Removals where the live music industry’s focus should be in 2023, to make the business a greener place. With more sustainability guidance for venues, festivals and tours available than ever before, the executives had one resounding answer for them: develop an action plan now…and stick to it.

Claire O’Neill, co-founder of A Greener Festival (AGF) and organiser of the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI):
“The music industry’s focus should be to stop wasting energy, switching to renewable sources and to stop burning fossil fuels. This needs to be done internally through procurements and through serious measures and engagement for reducing audience travel emissions.

“We’re spending far too much on unnecessarily burning fuel inefficiently. For those with energy tariffs that don’t directly fund new renewables, we’re funding the continuation of oil and gas ‘business as usual’ and increasing CO2 emissions, which will ultimately destroy the industry (and more) if not curtailed. If avoiding climate change and ecosystem collapse is not already a top priority with a plan for reduction of emissions, and removals of what can’t be avoided, that needs to happen now. A quick, easy and free change that can start straight away is to switch to plant-based food to protect biodiversity and reduce global emissions.

“We’ve been working for nearly two decades on this topic, with numerous forerunners who have seen the writing on the wall. Don’t be an organisation that got left behind. Time left to snooze has run out.”

Mark Stevenson, co-founder and chief impact officer of CUR8 Carbon Removals:
“There is no right answer but for my money, it’s creating genuine net-zero (as in carbon-removed) venues and stages for artists to walk on to and (if they want) excite their audiences to climate action – which is exactly what Claire and I (as chief impact officer at CUR8 carbon removals) and AEG/O2 are working on right now – do watch this space!”

“Create a genuine net-zero (as in carbon-removed) venues and stages for artists to walk on to and excite your audiences to climate action”

Chris Johnson, co-founder, festival director and sustainability ‘guru’ for the UK’s Shambala Festival:
“There are many great organisations and a lot of good information available to help organisations on their sustainability journey. We also have a North Star in the LIVE Green Vision and Declaration. Local Authorities across the UK are already starting to create standards and expectations for live events, often based on their net zero commitments. What’s needed next is a clear understanding of best practice in practical terms, so that all stakeholders are clear about what minimum standards look like, leading to consistency nationally and clarity of what actions to take for people and the planet. We have the opportunity to lead internationally!”

“What’s needed next is a clear understanding of best practice in practical terms, so it’s clear about what minimum standards look like”

Holger Schmidt, general secretary of the European festival association Yourope:
“After the recently published IPCC report made it clear to us once again that rapid and far-reaching action is essential, there is actually no other way for festivals and event organisers than to finally develop appropriate action plans and stick to them. In the next few days, YOUROPE will publish an important tool for this with the European Green Festival Roadmap 2030, which fits perfectly with the Future Festival Tools we co-created for sustainable capacity building in our sector. So if it hasn’t happened yet, 2023 is the year when everyone understands that it is our duty. And by everyone, I don’t just mean sustainability managers, I mean the entire teams, the artists, venues, suppliers and audience.”

Though the live music business has ample room for improvement when it comes to sustainability, work in the field is gathering pace. This week, Lollapalooza Berlin became the first festival in Germany to be awarded sustainability accreditation according to international standards (DIN ISO 20121 certification). Elsewhere, Glasgow’s OVO Hydro has teamed up with climate change charity Music Declares Emergency to help launch its new Fan Club for Climate Change initiative ahead of Earth Day and AEG Presents is to produce the inaugural date of the newly announced Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series.


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