How Should the Czech Art Reduce Its Carbon Footprint?

Published May 15, 2021

We are aware the climate crisis requires our involvement. With this conviction, for example, Arts and Theatre Institute in Prague began to meet with other cultural institutions on how to deal with sustainable operations. We bring you a short overview with comments by a local expert Viktor Třebický.

The climate crisis requires our involvement. With this conviction, the Arts and Theatre Institute (ATI) began in 2019 to meet with other cultural institutions on how to deal with sustainable operations within our organizations and act following sustainable development goals, which the UN draws attention to worldwide. Art and culture have a unique ability to address their audience either through performances, exhibitions, or artistic performances. Since 2019, therefore, the ATI has been calling on the artistic and cultural community to become more involved and sharing experiences regarding greener operations of cultural organizations.

In 2020, ATI was also the first cultural organization in the Czech Republic to have its carbon footprint audited by a representative of CI2 Viktor Třebický, who is dedicated to reducing climate impacts. “We don’t even develop any marketing, the topic has shifted so much that organizations are calling us to help us determine their carbon footprint, do some kind of audit and possibly help them set a path to reduce their footprint to carbon neutrality,” says about the situation in the Czech Republic Třebický and provides a comparison, for example, with the United Kingdom, where cultural institutions have had their strategies for reducing their carbon footprint for 15 years already. This is also helped by the local law, which has bound all sectors, including the public one, to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. UK’s cultural institutions, therefore, seek to take measures to reduce impacts.


Why even deal with the carbon footprint in culture?

So far, these are rather isolated cases in the Czech Republic. An example of good practice is the National Theater, where a photovoltaic power plant has been on the roof for several years. Nevertheless, according to Třebický, the more sustainable behavior of the institutions in the Czech Republic is still due to the enlightened leadership or someone who promotes these ideas – a systematic solution is still lacking. While in the United Kingdom there is a consensus across companies that it is necessary to reduce emissions and move towards carbon neutrality, in the Czech Republic a sectoral approach prevails – reducing emissions is still understood as a matter of the environmental agenda, not cross-sectionally. Although there is a national adaptation strategy and action plan in the Czech Republic, which are very precisely prepared documents, they are still perceived as departmental documents of the Ministry of the Environment, although they also contain tasks for other ministries – including the Ministry of Culture. “It may not occur to anyone, but of course the ministry is under the responsibility of a large number of buildings, especially historic institutions, and all of them will be affected by climate change – whether it is drought or extreme weather events. It is necessary to take care of parks differently, for example, if in the future it will be on average two or three degrees warmer, then all those historic parks will suffer, ”adds Třebický. At the scale of the European Union, the good news is, for example, that the new Creative Europe Program focuses, among other things, on the mainstreaming of the interdisciplinarity of green measures (i.e. contributing the achievement of an overall target of 30% of the Union budget expenditures supporting climate objectives).


What can the carbon footprint audit show?

The audit measures the carbon footprint in three areas, the so-called scopes, which help determine what effect an organization’s carbon footprint has on it. “In the first plan, we observe how the management of energy, water, waste, and operation of the building works in organizations and companies, for example, what are the habits in terms of extinguishing, ventilation, waste sorting, etc. similarly. In a few weeks, consumption can be reduced by up to 20 % without large investments. There are still large reserves in the Czech Republic administration, energy managers and the digitization of metering are missing. At the same time, the emission intensity of electricity in the Czech Republic is the 3rd highest in the EU and public administration accounts for up to 40 % of GDP, so its share in the carbon footprint is more significant than in the public consciousness,” explains Třebický. It is therefore the public sector that could lead by example. The positive news is that from 1.1. 2021 the amendment to the Public Procurement Act introduces the obligation of socially and environmentally responsible public procurement. However, the problem is not only in the lack of methodologies and legislation but also in specific players’ will to deal with the carbon footprint.


How to work with the result of the audit in the cultural organization?

An interesting tool according to Třebický is benchmarking, which can be used to compare, for example, the carbon footprint of similar institutions, in terms of employees or square meters. Using benchmarking, we will find out our starting level, how we stand among others. When we find out that we have an 80 % higher footprint than others, we need to deal with it. For example, to decipher what our impact on the climate consists of – natural gas, electricity, waste, or business trips? The next step must be a strategy to reduce the impact. In practice, this means setting a goal, for example, ten years away, and committing, for example, to the organization’s public declaration that by then we will reduce our carbon footprint by perhaps 40 %. Europe as a whole has committed itself to reduce its carbon footprint to so-called net-zero. It is difficult to imagine that Europe will have a net-zero and the Czech Republic will have its twelve tons per capita. “As we have said, the public sector is, say, 40% of GDP, so it makes up a significant part of these emissions. I would therefore call on the founders of contributory organizations and public sector institutions to start addressing this issue much more. On the one hand, they should lead by example, but they also have public funds at their disposal and it is time to systematically start doing something about it, ”concludes Třebický.