Statement from Culture Declares Emergency on COP26

We are reproducing the Statement issued 7th October 2021 by Culture Declares in full. ecoartscotland fully supports this statement. We call on arts institutions, particularly the Boards and senior managements, to fully engage with the Culture Declares ‘call to action’.

October 7, 2021

Statement from Culture Declares Emergency on COP26  


  • We are a growing movement of individuals and organisations in the Culture sector who have declared a climate and ecological emergency. 
  • COP26 is based on the Paris Agreement, which offers an inadequate trajectory to stabilise the climate. Most nations, including our host nation, are not even on course to keep to the Paris Agreement path. 
  • The worsening Earth crisis, both ecological damage and climate impacts, is shocking scientists and causing suffering, particularly for Most Affected Peoples and Areas.
  • In light of these failures in the face of the worsening Earth crisis, we make two urgent calls to politicians and policy-makers, and to the Culture sector.
  • We draw attention to the role of Culture: we invite politicians/policy-makers to collaborate with the Cultural sector to stimulate imagination, to generate ideas for innovation and to engage with communities. 
  • We invite Culture sector workers to join us in declaring emergency, and to make work and action plans that reach beyond COP26 to stir radical imagination and systemic change. 


We are a movement of arts and culture sector workers and organisations, mostly based in the UK, who have come together to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency. This is a statement about COP26 from those active in the working groups of Culture Declares. 

We are in a time when six of nine planetary boundaries have been breached, and most of the control variables for the boundaries are moving away from the safe operating space. We have declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency, so we are taking and calling for action across all interconnected environmental issues, including biosphere degradation. Our attention this Autumn is on two international initiatives: COP15 on Biodiversity and COP26.

While the Biodiversity summit is vital, Climate Change is the most serious boundary because of its impacts across the whole Earth system and humanity. The intensity and scale of the extreme heat in America and floods in Europe have shocked climate scientists, who did not expect records to be broken this much, over such a wide area or this soon. Tipping points are being reached. For example, the Amazon rainforest now emits more CO2 than it absorbs. 

COP26, hosted by the UK in November 2021, aims to continue holding nations to account to their Paris Agreement promises, but most nations’ plans are inadequate to stabilise the temperature increase between 1.5C and 2C. The target of 2C has been wrongly seen by some as an upper safe limit and it now appears that 1.5C is not safe either, based on the intersecting impacts unfolding now at 1.2C. 

The Paris Agreement was based on the IPCC 5th Assessment which had been watered down due to pressure from high emitting nations. The actions from the Agreement are in no way adequate to mitigate or adapt to the emerging climate catastrophe in ways that will bring justice for Most Affected People and Areas. The latest evidence suggests that the Paris targets will be insufficient to prevent a Hothouse Earth pathway as impacts are ‘baked in’ from historic emissions and the most likely trajectories of mitigation. The leaked IPCC 6th Assessment report from Working Group II due in early 2022 predicts a ferocious century of climate impacts, particularly in poor countries. 

COP26 aims to hold nations to the ‘ratchet mechanism’, increasing their contributions to reduce emissions. However, ambitions to increase action will be harmed by the example of the host, the UK Government, which is not even meeting its existing promises. Also, the UK Government has cut foreign aid by £4 billion, leaving people to starve who are most affected by climate impacts and conflict in places such as Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and Congo. 

In light of these failures in the face of the worsening Earth crisis, we make the following urgent calls: 

To politicians and policy-makers:

  • We call for sustained and ramped up action to tackle the Climate and Ecological Emergency across nations, regions and sectors. This action must be greater than any plans set for COP26 and pledges based on the Paris Agreement. 
  • The Emergency, which includes the risk of pandemics like COVID-19, should be at the heart of all your thinking, at every level. This requires injections of imagination about how harmful systems and embedded inequalities can change for the better. 
  • We invite you to collaborate with the Cultural sector to stimulate this imagination, to generate ideas for innovation and to engage with communities. 

To people working in the Cultural sector*: 

  • We invite you to join us in declaring emergency if you haven’t already, and to pursue pathways that tell the truth, take action in your practice and communities, and seek global justice and decolonisation. 
  • We invite you to go beyond creating events or art to be seen and heard due to the spotlight of COP26, instead forging your own spotlights that illuminate the systemic issues that matter to you and your communities, and to make plans to keep these issues shining into the future as challenges unfold. 
  • Consider your role beyond COP26 to help people cope with grief after its inevitable failure. 

*We interpret the Cultural sector extremely broadly, to include arts, design, heritage, and personal & community creativity. 


About Culture Declares Emergency 

We are a growing movement of individuals and organisations involved in art and culture. We declare this is a Climate and Ecological Emergency and we pledge to tell truths, take action and seek justice. Launched in April 2019, we were the first sector to form a declarer’s movement, inspired by local governments’ emergency declarations. Based in the UK, but collaborating internationally, we offer community and resources to ensure that sustained action follows a declaration. 

Please contact us on to discuss this statement, or other aspects of our work. 

Find out how to declare and get involved in the community 

Some creative initiatives by declarers and friends of our movement that you can get involved with include:

  • Paint the Land: In the months leading up to COP26, Writers Rebel’s Paint the Land project is teaming a handful of high-profile writers with well-loved visual artists to create landscape graffitos with a powerful ecological message. This will take the form of striking words “painted” on natural outdoor canvases.  
  • Letters to the Earth: In collaboration with The Climate Coalition and Listening to the Land (a 500 mile pilgrimage to Glasgow), Letters to the Earth is hosting creative workshops as part of a series of nationwide community interventions to collect people’s fears and hopes for the future, in the run up to COP26. 
  • Culture Takes Action: We are amplifying the actions that declarers are taking, using #CultureTakesAction and, in the run of to COP26, also #CultureCOP26. If you’d like your action or project to be shared on social media, or perhaps at one of our online events, please complete this form: 

See more actions & artworks for COP26 by declarers here.

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