What does climate action look like for the Culture and Creative Sector Industries? - Daily Planet`

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In The News 21 Nov 2022

The Culture and Creative Sector Industries (CCSI) can play a significant role in helping us envision a beautiful climate-resilient future and in galvanising people towards shared goals of planetary balance. Artists and designers are ‘agents of change’, they are active in every industry sector worldwide, and they influence the environmental impact of the products we consume and the thinking and social norms globally.

At COP27 in Egypt, EIT Climate-KIC brought together actors from the fashion, gaming, design, architecture and web industries, and asked them how they could contribute to reaching the climate goals. The three panels were hosted at the UNFCCC Global Innovation Hub led by Massamba Thioye, whom we interviewed ahead of COP27.

How can the fashion industry contribute to creating systemic change?

The fashion industry accounts for up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and its main challenge is to reduce its environmental impact within its long and complex value chain. One solution is to implement a digital traceability system across the value and supply chains, accessible to the end consumers and adaptable for international production partners. While this strategy is supported and highlighted in programmes like the EU Textile Industry, the fashion sector is still slow in implementing changes.  

“The way the supply chain was built is not something that can be flipped overnight, but there are ways to control bits of the supply chain to make sure we can keep track,” says Luca Bertolino, Global Product and Marketing Director at FILA. Fredrick Timmour, Founder and CEO of the Fashion Innovation Centre (FIC), adds that the very first thing to do is to tackle overproduction: “We need to reduce the volume of production and we need to change business models. But if we tell the fashion industry to ‘just produce less’, it won’t happen. What we need is to find alternative revenue sources.”

Laura Roja Uribe, Director of Innovation at Ninjas in Pyjamas, explains how we can leverage technology to accelerate innovation within the fashion industry. “The only way to do this is by collaborating. Our organisation doesn’t have the Research and Development that FIC has. We don’t have the 100 years of experience that FILA has in producing garments. But what they don’t have is how to make things entertaining, fun and different.”

For Timour, the garment industry also needs to connect with policymakers, drawing on projects such as Net Zero Cities (a project led by EIT Climate-KIC that aims to bring 112 cities to net zero by 2030) to standardise processes for brands to sort and recycle garments for instance. Bertolino agrees and says that “systemic change needs to happen” in the fashion industry.

Watch the session here

Building bridges between the CCSI and policymakers at the cities and regions level

The New European Bauhaus (NEB) project is a creative and interdisciplinary initiative that connects the European Green Deal to our living spaces and experiences. It calls on all of us to imagine and build together a sustainable and inclusive future that is beautiful for our eyes, minds, and souls. For Jefferson Gomes, from SENAI in Brazil, “creativity comes from diversity”. Unfortunately, regions and cities across the world are often disconnected and not inclusive to their communities.

Certain programmes like Net Zero Cities can sound “very abstract, and technocratic to many”, says Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of EIT Climate-KIC. Here, the cultural and creative industries can help in showing what the change would look like for people and communities. She says “we need to directly address the identity of cities and the identity of us as residents of these spaces. We can make this about images, and possibilities, so we need to bring in creative industries to help to create active imagination that depicts for us what living differently and living sustainably really look like in our streets and our neighbourhoods.” She adds that the emotional experience that art and the creative industry can bring can would help, much faster than anything rational, to change our habits and practices.

Alison Gilliland, EU Committee of the Regions agrees and says that “creativity, culture and innovation support people to make sense.” She adds that: “at the local level, in cities and regions, there is space for cultural creation, for cultural enjoyment, for innovation and for co-creating local governments with their citizens, with businesses and with academia.” She emphasises the importance to combine both cultural and technological innovation and use the NEB initiative as a vehicle for communicating and messaging climate change, for exploring climate action. “New European Bauhaus helps citizens to realise what it feels like to be living in a sustainable space, a sustainable city. That will lead to a collective change of social norms.”

Sheela Patel, a high-level advisory board member from Joint Research Centre, talks about how decades of colonialism have impacted how we are thinking and designing this climate-resilient future. She insists on the importance to include everybody in this transition.

She says: “You can’t think of a new world, in which you’re only looking at yourselves and your own habits and your own choices. You have to look at the impact of that on everything else. I represent the other end of the spectrum from many of you here, which is the one billion people whose homes are not fit for purpose in the next five years, where too much rain, too much sun, and too much extreme climate is destroying that very vulnerable survival construction that is self-designed, self-constructed and self-financed. Because we are outside every frame of reference, we are illegal, we are invisible, we are marginalised. For me, it’s a representational challenge for everybody, including the New European Bauhaus to say: ‘what are you going to do with them? Not for them, but with them’. And that is the way we have to work together.”

Watch the session here

The role of digital arts and the Internet in climate action

Digital arts and the web can also play an enormous part in creating new narratives for a sustainable future and galvanising climate action. But these sectors are also highly contributing to the climate challenges. From websites to cryptocurrencies and the rise of digital art, the internet consumes large amounts of electricity in data centres, telecoms networks, and end-user devices. An energy that is mostly coming from fossil fuels. If the internet was a country, it would in fact be the 7th largest polluter in the world. So how can the digital world contribute to building a more sustainable future?

Chris Adams, Director of the Green Web Foundation, says “the Culture and Creative Sector Industries have a real role in presenting plausible and desirable versions of the future that we can head in towards and we can be inspired about.” In Branch magazine, Adams and Michelle Thorne from the Mozilla Foundation talk about the intersection of climate and technology. He explains: “You need a wide selection of voices to have a more inclusive and attractive version of the future. When you create these ideas, those visions, it became easier for people to build it.”

“One of the main challenges with digital innovations is that we need to ensure that we’re not perpetuating existing gaps, that we’re not excluding generations, genders, and geographies,” continues Katherine Foster, Executive Director of Green Digital Finance Alliance. She explains that when it comes to climate change, we also need to make sure that the focus on digital technology doesn’t narrow our objectives on impact. She says: “The youth and local individuals are experts, and we need to include them in cocreating the infrastructure, in generating the tools, the framework, the practical approaches with a focus on systems innovation.”

Talking about the environmental footprint of the internet, Adams says that the first thing is to get off fossil fuels. He warns about the simple argument of encouraging more sustainable individual behaviours: “Placing the burden on end-users to decarbonise the entire internet is putting the burden on the wrong place when you think about how rich the largest companies are. We should instead hold large companies accountable.”

Chris Adams’ organisation contributed to creating the sustainable web manifesto, where signatories “commit to building digital tools that are clean, efficient, open, honest, regenerative and resilient.” He adds that his company will commit to give 1.5 per cent  of their annual revenue to keep the 1.5 degrees target alive and invite other organisations to do the same.

During the panel, Miroslav Polzer from DigitalArt4Climate, an initiative that uses blockchain technology to turn art into digital assets or NFTs, committed to building the ecosystem for youth and citizens’ climate action empowerment with data and digital innovation in an open and participatory manner. “We’re building a consortium to mobilise the necessary resources and commit to using these tools in the most environmental way. We will push the members of the coalition to be aware of the environmental footprint of the solutions they use.”

Adriaan Eeckels, European Commission Joint Research Centre concludes by calling institutions to invite the art community. “We need to bring artists and young artists to the conversation. We need to all demand as a society, for technology to use sustainable technologies. Let’s identify what are the green infrastructure, and the green technology that is working and start using and promoting them.”

Watch the session here

At COP27, EIT Climate-KIC also organised a series of events on the role of cities in the climate challenges, and on the African climate tech ecosystems

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