Blog: Responding to Climate Change as an International Festival

19 February 2020


At Imaginate, we recognise that we are facing a climate emergency, and that the extreme weather and damage that we are beginning to see around the world will worsen until the global population stops emitting more greenhouse gases than the planet can reabsorb.

We feel particularly strongly about this because we produce a festival of work for children, and as an organisation we strive to improve the quality of children and young people’s lives. We have recently seen young people in Scotland and around the world standing up for their future and calling for action on climate change through the global school strike movement. This is one of the main factors that has influenced us to seriously consider and reduce our impact on the climate.

As an organisation which works internationally and produces an international festival, we are acutely aware of our contribution to climate change through the flights we take and cause others to take. For those of us lucky enough to fly regularly, for work or for pleasure, flying is the biggest contributor to our carbon footprints. As the graph illustrates, deciding against one return long-haul flight can reduce your footprint more than giving up meat or driving a car for an entire year! Travelling by train produces significantly less carbon emissions than flying; for example, a return flight between Edinburgh and Bristol produces 5 times more emissions than a return train journey.

At Imaginate we do not fly within the UK, barring exceptional circumstances, and we are taking the train to and around Europe much more than previously, including a recent train journey from Edinburgh to Hasselt, Belgium and back, for two staff and four artists. Our Creative Development team try to avoid flying for the Creative Development programme, largely inspired by the growing number of artists who have committed to avoid flying. We have found that travelling by train is usually more enjoyable, and more conducive to getting some work done, than flying, and it is not always more expensive (but you do need to book train journeys well in advance to find cheaper tickets).

If you are travelling to Edinburgh for the Children’s Festival, you can help reduce the climate impact of both our festival and the wider children’s sector by choosing more sustainable travel options whenever you are in a position to do so. See our Travelling to Edinburgh page for tips about low carbon transport.

We do not pretend to have the answer for how to sufficiently reduce our contribution to climate change while maintaining and strengthening our international focus and relationships – but we know that we, along with all international festivals and organisations in our sector, need to grapple with this. Look out for our delegate event on internationalism and climate change, for a full discussion of the tension between wanting to present world-class international work and facilitate cross-cultural understanding, and needing to reduce our impact on the climate and the planet we all call home.

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