Carbon management update 2021

23rd March 2022

ID: A colourful word cloud featuring terms associated with carbon management and carbon emissions reduction.

Throughout 2021, our Green Arts team supported Creative Scotland RFOs and organisations funded by City of Edinburgh Council Culture with environmental reporting.

We have now received emissions reporting and carbon management updates from 118 of the 121 RFOs despite the difficult circumstances that many have faced in adapting to pandemic related restrictions. As ever, we are impressed with the range of ways organisations are engaging with reducing their emissions and the enthusiasm for important action in this area. We want to extend our thanks and congratulations to all the organisations we’ve worked with over the past year.

Emissions reporting 2020/21 – an exceptional year

In gathering emissions data from the previous year, we were  asking organisations to report on their emissions from 2020/21. With much work changed, reduced, or happening differently in response to pandemic related restrictions, the overall footprint showed up as less than 50% of the 2019/20 footprint. The total emissions reported by all organisations totalled 3289 tonnes CO2e in comparison to the 2019/20 total of 8648 tonnes CO2e.

Below you can see a pie chart of how the footprint of 2020/21 was made up of different emissions sources. You’ll notice there’s almost no travel!

A pie chart showing the 2020/21 footprint's different emissions sources.

ID: A pie chart showing the 2020/21 footprint’s different emissions sources. More than half, 51.63%, is for gas.

The global pandemic brought with it challenging personal and professional circumstances for all as well as struggle for the sector at large that we would never wish to see replicated. However, there has been some learning from some of the changes made in producing and delivering cultural work with the potential to embed lower carbon methods in the future. Organisations have told us about some work that can now happen remotely, avoiding otherwise significant travel emissions, including some examples where they’re able to reach a larger or more diverse audience.

Pathways to zero

We have now been gathering emissions data from organisations since 2015/16, so we were able to provide all organisations who have been reporting on their emissions with an overview of their emissions up to 2019/20 and tailored pathways to zero emissions by 2030 and 2045. These reports were designed to provide food for thought as organisations consider the scale of the net zero challenge.

Below you can see the collective pathway to zero for all organisations reporting their emissions starting at the 2019/20 footprint. If we intend to keep to this trajectory to reach net zero by 2045, we need to collectively aim for a footprint of 5604 tonnes CO2e in 2025. This is more than the 2020/21 footprint but much less than that of 2019/20.

A graph showing a downward curve from now to 2050 to illustrate the path to net zero.

ID: A graph showing a downward curve from now to 2050 to illustrate the collective path to net zero.

Working in culture we’re often dependent on carbon intensive infrastructure that we don’t have direct control over to deliver work. We know that reaching net zero is a collective project that spans the whole of society so government, local authorities, businesses, cultural organisations and communities all need to be involved. Monitoring and reducing organisational emissions is part of a bigger shift.

Carbon management planning

Carbon management plans 2018-2021 were shaped around the idea of projects taking place on a year-by-year basis. While the work on these short-term projects has reduced emissions by an estimated 900 tonnes CO2e, representing around a 2.8% annual reduction over the three-year period, in the light of more ambitious national and regional reduction targets we need to do more.

Our experience during this initial three-year period has shown that without longer term planning it is difficult to deliver more ambitious emissions reductions. Responding to pandemic restrictions also meant organisations struggled to deliver their planned actions for 2020/21 and had to adapt these to suit their new circumstances. With these factors taken into account, this year we asked organisations to think further ahead and tell us about an action they planned to deliver before 2025. This allowed many to be more ambitious and explore more innovative ideas which we hope to encourage and support in the coming years.

Below is a snapshot of the commitments reporting organisations made.

A word cloud featuring terms associated with carbon management and carbon emissions reduction.

ID: A colourful word cloud featuring terms associated with carbon management and carbon emissions reduction.

It remains to say another big thank you to all the reporting organisations who have provided updates, spoken with us and participated in our workshops over the past year showing careful thought and commitment as we work together to contribute to a lower carbon future.

For any organisation looking at managing their carbon footprint, we have advice, tools and resources available on our carbon management pages and encourage you to contact our Green Arts Manager, Caro Overy (, with any feedback or questions. 

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About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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