Pilot Carbon Audit

ImaginationLancaster and FutureEverything have worked in partnership with Tyndall Centre Manchester to help FutureEverything (formerly Futuresonic) begin its work on measuring, managing and mitigating the festival’s contribution to climate change. The Tyndall Centre brings together scientists, economists, engineers and social scientists who together are working to develop sustainable responses to climate change through trans-disciplinary research and dialogue. The partnership between ImaginationLancaster, Tyndall and FutureEveryhting is assisted by Creative Concern, a sustainable development communications agency in Manchester. Underpinning the partnership is the understanding that the cultural sector has an important role to play in answering and making sense of the questions posed by climate change.

The audit is being approached as a pilot process that will build in detail year on year, with an ‘open source’ approach making the method fully transparency and available. This is unusual in carbon audits of leisure events and festivals, for which the norm is to commission consultants and offset a headline emissions total, without declaring full method or scope. An open method will make it possible for this to be repeated by other organisations and events.

In terms of results, focusing on the music strand of the festival in 2006, the Futuresonic international festival generated first order carbon dioxide emissions of some 297 – 791 tonnes, depending on whether the full warming effects of aviation emissions are accounted for. For comparison, national per capita carbon emissions are in the order of approximately 10t CO2 per year. The music events at Futuresonic thus cause the equivalent of the annual CO2 emissions of approximately 30-80 people. In terms of (temporary) biosequestration within the UK, this would require, for example, 1-3 hectares of oak woodland to be protected over a 100 year period (ECCM, 2002). Each year of the festival would require another 1-3ha to be so protected.

Aircraft emissions dominate the carbon emissions profile of the festival, and, more generally, it is the transport of attendees and artists that leads to the bulk of the emissions. The sum of surface transport and non-uplifted aircraft emissions (i.e. not taking account of non-CO2 effects) is 91 times the sum of the non-transport emissions: 3,236kgCO2. If we include the non-CO2 warming effects of the aircraft emissions, transport emissions as a whole are 182 times greater than non-transport emissions.

For an international festival on an island nation, air transport is almost unavoidable, and so change is unlikely to be easy. Goals will be to incentivise walking, cycling and public transport use, as well as higher load factors in cars. Emissions from flying to the festival are perhaps most practically mitigated by encouraging travelers to purchase Gold Standard Clean Development Mechanism offsets. Other festivals have claimed to be ‘carbon neutral’ by offsetting their emissions. However, offsetting is not a complete solution, as it often displaces the problem elsewhere. The project will also explore the mitigation options that can take the Futuresonic festival beyond overseas biological offsetting towards more refined forms of offsetting and guaranteed direct and indirect emissions reduction.

Studies show people are concerned about climate change and the environment, but these issues are not high priorities for them. They also tend to expect that it is government that must take the lead on these issues. This study highlights that even going to a festival has implications for climate change. As the study produces more results, information on the carbon footprint of cultural activities – attending a festival or going to the cinema – will enable people to make informed decisions about the things they do.

A Pilot Project by FutureEverything/Futuresonic, Tyndall Centre Manchester, Imagination@Lancaster and Creative Concern. May 2007

Seed funded by North West Regional Development Agency.