Too often, still, the climate emergency is seen by even-senior politicians as an opportunity for puerile stunts of political point-scoring – and this at a time when researchers are warning that the planet may already have crossed a series of climate ‘tipping points’, where certain impacts of global heating take on a momentum of their own.
In Music Ally’s domain, though, what has been encouraging in 2019 has been the music industry’s growing engagement with the climate emergency. One of the latest examples being an organisation in the UK called Music Declares Emergency, which has today been given independent body Impala’s ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award.
“This movement seizes the power of the music sector to take action and inspire change. It is important to join forces and to encourage collective action for climate,” said Impala’s executive chair Helen Smith, encouraging artists and music-industry bodies to sign the movement’s declaration, which was first announced in July this year. Among its promises: “We acknowledge the environmental impact of music industry practices and commit to taking urgent action.”
The climate emergency isn’t always an easy topic for the music industry to discuss, given that a really important sector of the business – live – is (through flights alone) one of the most-challenging in terms of any goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 – one of Music Declares Emergency’s goals – while areas like merch and vinyl-production offer their own challenges too.
This year, we’ve seen Dirty Hit’s Jamie Oborne talking about the touring challenge in relation to The 1975 – “We’re not going to have touring worked out in six weeks because everything’s working against you, but we are going to have it sorted out in a period of time, and 50% is better than nothing” – and Coldplay holding off on touring their new double-album “to work out how our tour can not only be sustainable [but] how can it be actively beneficial”.
The band’s Chris Martin is aiming for a tour that’s carbon neutral: “The hardest thing is the flying side of things. But, for example, our dream is to have a show with no single use plastic, to have it largely solar powered.” Just this week, meanwhile, Massive Attack teamed up with researchers for a project analysing data from the band’s touring and recording, to understand where changes might be made.
Musicians talking about these issues can still attract criticism from elements of the media (fuelled by some of those point-scoring politicians) that are instinctively pushing back against climate-emergency warnings. An open letter signed by a number of prominent artists, published in October, addressed that tension.
“Dear journalists who have called us hypocrites, You’re right. We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints. Like you – and everyone else – we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm,” said the letter, before promising that “the stories that you write calling us climate hypocrites will not silence us”.
It’s crazy, given the scientific evidence, that in 2019 when artists like The 1975, Coldplay, Massive Attack and others talk publicly about these issues, it feels like they’re sticking their necks out: taking a risk. Campaigns like Music Declares Emergency will be playing a vital role in 2020 for fostering this discussion (not to mention action) and pushing back on the hypocrisy accusations.
We hope one of the big industry themes next year will be backing for this and similar campaigns from all levels of the music industry, so Impala’s award is a timely boost for that prospect.