Creative Climate Roundtable

YBCA Theatre 'Climate change is real' sign

Last week, team JB had the greatest pleasure to go to sunny (sometimes) San Francisco alongside THE climate conference of the year: the Global Climate Action Summit. The Global Climate Action Summit aimed to bring together leaders and agents of change from around the world to ‘Take Ambition to the Next Level’ – to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of states, cities and citizens in action on climate change.

Keen to jump on this exciting moment of reflection and renewed ambition, we decided to align ourselves with the ambitions of the Summit, journey to California, and provide a space to discuss the ever-growing opportunities, possibilities, and responsibilities for arts, culture and heritage.

We were lucky to be joined by a whole host of wonderful participants – from philanthropic and strategic bodies, state officials, environmental experts, academics, policymakers, to international artists and organisations and activists – all looking to showcase good practice and artistic expressions, explore new thinking, and engage with culture differently. Our key motivations were to connect diverse communities of practice and develop strategies to be bigger than the sum of our parts – scaling success and recognising ourselves as part of a global cultural movement for transformational change.

JB will be summarising this rich conversation for the benefit of the roundtable participants, and producing a report and policy recommendations which we will share broadly – watch this space – and feed into key strategic bodies such as the UN, C40, IPCC etc. But for us, this is also the start of a longer conversation – internationally, and certainly in the United States… where, despite leadership on climate change not being at its strongest, there is diverse creative and cultural work taking place in abundance. We will be back to pick up the conversation in November when we will be attending the World Cities Culture Forum summit to present our city research and support programme.

Following our own roundtable event, we also had the great pleasure of speaking at the inspirational Climate Heritage Mobilization – a convening of cultural heritage practitioners learning and acting on climate:

Heritage drives climate ambition and action. Heritage anchors a sense of place — and every place has a climate story. Capacity building works best when it’s culturally appropriate. Traditional knowledge and heritage values hold contemporary uses as locally-adapted climate capacities and technology. Heritage sites are valuable observatories of climate processes while heritage sciences tell us how climate has changed and how to use this information to establish and understand shifting baselines and past adaptation efforts.

Behind this is the amazing team of Andrew Potts and Julianne Polanco, who we are so proud to have worked with, and with whom we look forward to ongoing collaborations.

After these two events – with much coffee in between – we left California feeling galvanised. Yes, the climate challenge is enormous, sometimes intangibly so, but these rooms were filled with people demonstrating radical hope, “stubborn optimism” (thanks Christiana Figueres), a desire to see and do things differently, and a proliferation of practical tactics and evidenced success. They also demonstrated that culture is the answer. Climate change is a cultural challenge, and we need to invest in arts, culture and creativity to unlock the inspiration and aspiration to make change happen.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this conversation, and particularly those who supported us through making connections across California. Huge thanks to Tom DeCaigny and SF Arts Commission for hosting the event and for contributing to the Creative Climate City Programme.

Banner image: Andrea Bowers, digital render of Climate Change Is Real (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for the Global Climate Action Summit, San Francisco), 2018. Aluminium, paint, neon, LED lights. Photo © Julie’s Bicycle