International organisations form charter for a sustainable visual art sector

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In a concerted step to unify the visual art sector’s efforts to mitigate its environmental impact, four international organisations have announced their commitment to form the Art Charter for Climate Action (ACCA). The charter aims to align the industry with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The organisations are announcing the creation of the ACCA Founding Alliance concurrent with the United Nations General Assembly and New York’s Climate Week. The group plans to open the charter to signatories in April 2024 during the opening of the next Venice Biennale.

According to organisers, the need for such an alignment became clear upon reflection that existing efforts toward the same goal were not having a broad impact. “Working individually will only change pockets of the sector,” says Alison Tickell, founder and chief executive of ACCA member Julie’s Bicycle. “By working collectively, we can be greater than the sum of our parts and scale and accelerate action.”

The four organisations–Art 2030, Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM), Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC) and Julie’s Bicycle–represent over 1,000 members from more than 70 countries. Each group has made strides in its specialised areas. CIMAM, a global membership of modern and contemporary art institutions, includes museum directors responsible for creating sustainable practices within their organisations. The sustainability group GCC has members worldwide encompassing artists, commercial galleries, auction houses and art fairs working to improve practices and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, among other initiatives. Julie’s Bicycle provides sustainability expertise and resources for the cultural sector. And Art 2030 ­­bridges ACCA with the UN global goals and the general public through large-scale projects and engagement intended to inspire action for the environment. Together, ACCA members include public and commercial institutions, as well as artists, galleries, museums, academics, non-profits and production businesses.

“As ACCA produces frameworks and resources, we will bring our collective learnings to UN touchpoints,” says Luise Faurschou, founding director of Art 2030. “To ensure ACCA’s activity is targeted, working groups will be inspired by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Climate Action Pathways, setting key performance indicators that relate to global policy. By reporting back into UN frameworks, the visual arts sector can not only track its contribution to climate action, but also have a united voice in the development of future policies.”

With ACCA, participating organisations will combine current initiatives to share best practices and find sustainable solutions together. The goal is to provide a form of oversight to achieve a lasting impact and system-wide change throughout the art industry’s various sectors. This mission amplifies the ongoing efforts climate groups have been undertaking with increasing intensity over the last several years. In forming ACCA, the organisations mirror the work of Partners for Arts Climate Targets (PACT), a similar alliance of international coalitions, including GCC, that launched in 2021 to catalyse climate action. Like PACT, ACCA recognises the importance of sharing resources and sector-wide cooperation.

“Each founding alliance member has a different stake in the visual art sector,” says Heath Lowndes, co-founder and managing director of GCC. “Individual changes are limited in their effectiveness by their neighbours in the supply chain. If we unite our resources, our individual initiatives will not only reach more audiences, but will also change the visual art sector supply chain.”

To align all aspects of that supply chain around robust and holistic climate goals, ACCA members are calling for the implementation of environmental values as core tenets across the arts sector. The ultimate goal is to make sustainable decisions second nature and reduce the impact of all areas of the industry, from the production and transportation of works to their display, storage and conservation. ACCA also promotes adaptability for future changes as the environment, art industry and adjacent sectors continue to evolve. As the group grows, the hope is to represent all stakeholders in the global visual art sector in an interwoven system.

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