Principles, Ethics and Rights

Climate Adaptation and Environmental Action

Detailed Discussion

Current Conditions

Climate Crisis and the Arts

The arts have played a significant role in social change movements through history, and can play a leading role in community awareness of and responses to the climate crisis. The arts can provide essential tools, frameworks and conditions for engaging with the complexity, tragedy and possibility, within the crises we face. For artists making work in this area - stories, images and experiences can be powerful ways to communicate, educate and unearth the often hidden relationship between climate crisis and issues like global inequality.

In the arts, action and response to this crisis can take many forms including: 

  • adaptive strategies 

  • activism

  • creative protest 

  • divestment 

  • community building 

  • emergency preparedness 

  • awareness raising 

  • art about climate 

  • environmental art 

  • adjacent campaigns 

  • care for Country or Landback campaigns

Amidst fires and floods, many in the arts community have begun to align their practice with the climate movement, however the arts are also intimately connected to and in many cases reliant on funding from fossil fuel and extractive industries. Discussions of artwashing are becoming more pronounced, protest is increasing and movements are collectivising with a view to cease providing social license to companies through their association with arts and cultural activities. 

Key Issues

Climate Justice

The climate crisis can be understood as a social justice and human rights issue – with those who have contributed the least, suffering the worst of its impacts. Any response to the climate crisis must have mitigation, adaption and justice at its heart. Climate justice privileges local knowledges, place-based responses and long term relationship building, to transition to a post-carbon future with equity at the heart. This conversation must be placed at the centre of reimagining organisational values, institutional governance and strategic priorities and involve urgent action in understanding how to mitigate impact and make change.

Key considerations include:

  • the make-up of your collaborators, staff, board and program. Put artists and those from the most impacted communities in supported, paid, leadership positions, see also Racial Equity and Representation

  • research, support, volunteer and connect with or donate to existing First Nations, community, local, grassroots, Landback or climate justice initiatives, including anti-extractive, housing, disability justice and no border campaigns

  • arts experiences and practice can be a space for learning, reflection and experimentation - how are you supporting this or creating space to collectively learn and practice alternative ways?

  • declaring a climate emergency, in line with the Culture Declares Emergency movement, sharing knowledge and methods of responding, alongside actions and campaigns centered on fostering structural change

Climate Emergencies

Artists and arts organisations have a role in preparing for and recovering from climate emergencies such as fires, floods, drought and sea-level rise. The arts can have a tangible impact on the ways communities survive climate crises through organisational access to civic buildings, resources or infrastructure, to community networks that can contribute to mutual aid and wellbeing, pre and post-disaster.

Artwork, art studios and tangible cultural heritage can also be threatened by climate emergencies. Museums and galleries across Australia have been preparing for disasters caused by the climate crisis and the potential impacts on their collections.

For more information, see Emergency Response and Disaster Preparedness.

Individual vs Systemic Responses

Artists, arts workers and small organisations can model good-practice as well as collectivising to place pressure upwards towards structural change. However, all too often the precarity of arts funding precludes individual artists from being able to demand action from larger organisations or funding bodies. Effective action and impactful responses to the crisis will need to come from our large cultural institutions, whose actions have the capacity to create the most significant impact on the wider sector and beyond. Systemic change requires moving beyond individual action or individualising responsibility - towards collectivising strategies, creating conditions of care and activating community networks.

Action to be taken includes: 

  • formalise the responsibility for climate action within your community or organisation, via a working group and lines of accountability

  • collectivise and share networks, resources, ideas, plans and contacts with your community of practice – what are other artists doing, how can you share responsibility and support each other to make changes? 

  • seek and create space for long term relationships with other artists, between organisations and communities. Cultural sustainability is a key pillar of climate adaptation and justice - and long term relationships open the opportunity for long term changes

First Nations

First Nations communities are critical in responding to the climate crisis and in caring for Country.

First Nations communities have been sustainably caring for this continent for millennia and have been calling for (and leading) urgent, transformative and redistributive responses to the climate crisis for decades. First Nations leadership must be resourced to develop the structural initiatives that move the process of decolonial practices forward, first and foremost for the material benefit of First Nations communities, and especially in the arts and cultural sphere

Artists and organisations should centre First Nations knowledge and support First Nations communities by:

  • contributing a percentage of income to Pay The Rent, to local First Nations organisations or build this into project budgets

  • ensuring that First Nations artists, Elders or leaders are in paid, supported leadership positions in a project or organisation

  • supporting First Nations communities to heal and care for Country

  • following ICIP protocols, such as Welcomes or Acknowledgements or using Indigenous place names

  • provide sustainable employment opportunities for First Nations artists making work in this space, to produce self-determined projects

  • prioritise doing business with First Nations owned contractors (e.g. catering/materials) 

  • ensure First Nations contributors are always paid for and own their knowledge and work, see First Nations

  • for non-First Nations artists and organisations to allocate regular time and space for collective (un)learning -  reflecting on existing dominant cultural norms and worldviews, and ways they/we can shift to be better allies

All parties must ensure that Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) principles are upheld for any use or adaptation of Indigenous cultural heritage.

For more information on ICIP and engaging and collaborating with First Nations communities see, First Nations and Working With First Nations Art Centers

Legal Requirements

Legal instruments including the United Nation's Declaration on the Right to a Healthy Environment apply in this area.

Responsibilities of Organisations

Organisations may provide support through access to spaces and resources, commissioning climate-focused work, coordinating community cultural responses to climate catastrophes, as well as assessing their own sphere of influence and the impact their actions may have. This includes supporting artists and organisations already working in this space. 

Environmental Justice Policy

It is good practice for organisations to create a general Environmental Policy and to include an Environmental Adaptation or Climate Justice Plan into existing Strategic Plans. Good practice recommends that it be integrated with the organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan (see First Nations), Code of Ethics and Equity Policy (see Racial Equity and Representation) to ensure a climate justice focus. 

For information on preparing artwork, workplaces and collections for climate emergencies, see Emergency Response and Disaster Preparedness.

Organisational and Programming Strategies

The below is a guide to understanding sustainable green practices in projects, in planning and in negotiations.

Consider including the following in an Environmental or Climate Justice Policy:

  • follow First Nations protocols, as outlined above

  • provide lower or free ticket prices for First Nations audiences

  • assess how your artistic program supports work made about, under the conditions of, and by those most impacted by the climate crisis

  • conduct a whole-of-organisation audit to monitor and report on the environmental impacts of the business end to end. For example, see Julie's Bicycle Creative Green Certification. Consider both venue-based impacts as well as human and activity based

  • use a green insurance provider investing in decarbonisation

  • provide professional development opportunities for artists you work with to develop their own green riders

  • consider the physical and environmental impacts of the climate crisis in your risk assessments

  • provide transparent messaging on your environmental policy, energy use and mitigation policies, such as, 'no single use plastic allowed at events'

  • implement a strong monitoring and evaluation of the environmental policy

  • ensure project fundraising and partnerships align with ethical sponsorship frameworks


  • develop measurable target reductions in carbon emissions, with a clear time frame for transition to a lower-emissions target 

  • if you are a venue-based organisation, improving energy efficiency, including through insulation, solar heating or water

  • use small scale, cooperative, community-based, green energy providers or other renewable, local, small-scale initiatives

  • offset only after you have exhausted circular, regenerative or reusable options

  • request offsets from suppliers 

  • offset activities via local, reputable, traceable and preferably First Nations or community-led environmental offset providers (for example, Indigenous Carbon Industry Network or Fifteen Trees), or regional organisations (e.g. in the Pacific) for impact beyond our shores

  • support artists or small arts companies to audit, monitor and report on the environmental impacts of their work with you, and include offsets for this work in project budgets, separate to artist fees

  • provide an offset option for ticket buyers to select when booking


  • ensure no single use items or plastics

  • ensure no paper-based flyers or printed communications material

  • use green catering, for example local, ethical, zero waste, social enterprise or community-run suppliers and reduced food waste

  • ensure full recycling and compost/green waste facilities are available in venues

  • use low-toxicity, FSC certified or recycled paper, and fair-trade certified products

  • incorporate regenerative design principles (for example, see Regenerative Design: Accelerator Insights #3) for staging, infrastructure and temporary events 

  • ensure ethical relationships with animals. For more information, see Arts Law’s information sheets on Artwork Made Using Plants and Animals

Travel and Accommodation

  • incentivise environmentally gentle modes of travel - e.g. green transportation to venue through reduced ticket prices for your public; and green fleets, ride-share, public transport for staff

  • where flights are used, use direct flights with carbon offsets

  • plan tours in a sequential way geographically, along the fastest, shortest, most connected route

  • book accommodation for artists close to or within walking distance from the venue

  • allow adequate timeframes – a slow trip is a more environmentally friendly trip allowing for different transport modes, less waste and less impact

  • use green logistics for shipping and transporting artworks, such as freight decarbonisation or carbon neutral transport. For example, see Australia Post’s Carbon Neutral Parcel Delivery service

  • prioritise local artists over interstate or international artworks or presentations to avoid higher environmental impacts

Responsibilities of Artists

Artists can support climate action through fundraising, demonstrating best practice and making art that is specifically focused on the climate crisis. Artists may also consider if they can implement any of the actions in the Responsibilities of Organisations section above.

Green Riders

It is good practice for artists to create a green rider outlining environmental expectations for touring or presenting. A green rider should be integrated with an artist’s values around sponsorship (see Sponsorship) First Nations self-determination (see First Nations) and equity (see Racial Equity and Representation) to ensure a climate justice focus. 

The green rider may include non-negotiable and negotiable sections. Consider including requests for any of the recommendations outlined in the Environmental Justice Policy section above. In addition, consider requesting organisations provide their Environmental Policy or Strategy in advance of any agreement, to ensure an alignment of values, particularly in the area of sponsorship.

For more information on green riders, see Julies Bicycle Green Rider guide.

Project Development

  • think about the environmental impact of your work (long term) or project (short term). Consider auditing, monitoring and logging your environmental footprint and what changes you can immediately make

  • plan for zero waste, avoid greenhouse gas emissions and environmentally regenerative processes in all your activities

  • recognise and log the environmental impacts of digital cultural production and consider your digital footprint

  • build standard percentage offsets into project budgets when applying for funding or presenting opportunities

  • use a local and reputable offset provider. For example, Fifteen Trees

  • use low toxicity and biodegradable products, vegetable-based inks, locally made or printed, and low impact archival papers like bamboo. Be aware and avoid run off into the water table (e.g. paints or chemical substances)

  • consider your suppliers – are they local, do they have transparent environmental policies, do they support sustainable practices? Request supply chain transparency from them if in doubt. Can you prioritise First Nations-owned contractors or suppliers?

  • consider the heating and cooling options in your studio or office and where possible shift to energy efficient, low consumption devices with energy-saving modes and ethical, green providers

Responsibilities of Artists and Organisations

Sponsorship and Investment

Understanding the relationships between funding (philanthropic, local, state, federal government and private) and artists or organisations is critical to having a clear climate justice framework. Artists and organisations have a responsibility to ensure that sponsorship and funding is in line with their values and should have ethical sponsorship policies in place.

For more information, see Sponsorship

Consider collective and public action with other organisations or sector-wide initiatives and develop key media messages. Pursue active divestment from investments and sponsorships that are not aligned with your values.

Both artists and organisations should ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is your ethical sponsorship policy? 

  • Where do you bank? What is their relationship with the fossil fuel industry?

  • Where does your superannuation fund or insurance company hold their money?

  • What shares and investments do you hold?

  • Who is on your Board? What interests or investments do they have? 

  • Is there a gag or non-disparagement clause in your contracts that prevent you talking about funders or the organisation’s sponsorships? 

Research the environmental and socially responsible credentials of your investments and seek out climate responsible options or green providers with clean and ethical investments.

Digital Footprint

Good practice recommendations include:

  • recognise and log the environmental impacts of digital cultural production, including social media use, websites, data storage (location and amount) and online file sharing platforms

  • use green hosting or data storage options (for example, see the Networked Condition) and consider open-source, locally developed digital or online platforms. Avoid technology platforms and suppliers without transparent climate policies

  • offer online or digital presentations of works to reduce movement, travel and increase accessibility

Monitoring and Evaluation

Implement robust evaluation and monitoring systems to track your progress against the goals in your Environmental Justice Policy. 

Both artists and organisations should ask themselves the following questions:

  • How will you keep yourself and others accountable? 

  • What methods do you have for reviewing and revising? 

  • How will you communicate the changes you are making and be transparent with the aspirations you are working towards? 

Be clear around your goals and your progress against them. Consider publishing them on your website.

Consider developing an impact strategy for your project or program:

  • What relevant resources can you provide your audiences to encourage them to take action and learn more? 

  • What communities can you connect with that are already working in this area, and ask how you can amplify their existing campaigns?

  • How does the art you are creating or supporting serve their work?