Scotland's events sector can rebuild on a new climate-friendly model - Paul Bush

Scotland’s events industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the extended shutdown of live events in Scotland since March 2020 having a devastating impact on the industry. However, this adversity has driven huge innovation as event organisers respond to the challenges of the last 18 months and look ahead to what the future for the industry looks like.

Val McDermid in conversation with Dame Joan Bakewell in Edinburgh International Book Festival's first livestreamed event.
Val McDermid in conversation with Dame Joan Bakewell in Edinburgh International Book Festival's first livestreamed event.

Now as restrictions start to ease and we start to see the return of live events, this opens up the opportunity to take what has been learnt over the last year and build back a better, thriving sector within the Scottish economy.

In a changing world where the need for environmental change has become ever increasingly prominent, many event organisers and venues have already responded positively to the challenge. Among them is the abrdn Scottish Open, which is at the forefront of the European Tour’s ‘Green drive’ initiative and saw low emission bio fuel used in onsite generators, carbon off-setting for player and caddie travel and a commitment to reduce single use plastics at this year’s event.

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While online activity has been a short-term action because of the pandemic, others have recognised the opportunity it brings. For example, Edinburgh International Book Festival delivered an online festival comprising almost 150 events after having to cancel the in-person event last year. This year’s festival features a line-up of over 300 writers, artists and thinkers from around the world, all of which will be streamed online, and some with an in-person audience at their new home in Edinburgh College of Art.

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland Director of Events

Events themselves are also hugely powerful in engaging the public in climate change through their programming, helping inspire people to make changes in their own lives. This year’s Orkney International Science Festival will celebrate the innovation in renewables and wider sustainability on its shores. In September, audiences on Lunan Bay can explore the worlds of flood mythology and climate fragility in the unique event ‘Over Lunan.’

Tackling the climate emergency is everyone’s responsibility, from government and business to communities and individuals. Through VisitScotland’s Responsible Tourism strategy, we are working with event organisers to pioneer a more sustainable future for the way we run events.

There is no one single, ‘silver bullet’ that makes an event sustainable. Rather there are a range of choices that we need to make differently. Our work with Zero Waste Scotland is helping Scotland’s events sector to navigate these. Selecting an event delivery model that allows us to minimise the environmental impact is important, but so is providing catering in ways that produces less waste, as well as minimising the use of energy, water and resources. Sustainability in events means looking at the full supply chain and challenging your own suppliers to make changes in their work too.

Climate change and nature loss are not distant, far away problems: they are here in Scotland and we’re seeing the impact already. The Scottish Government’s Let’s do Net Zero campaign highlights the benefits a net zero society will bring for our economy, health and environment. Net zero will only be achieved when the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the atmosphere balances with the amount we’re able to take out.

By harnessing the shared experiences as a result of the pandemic, we can hopefully reflect, reconnect and move forward. By committing to make changes happen in our own sector, as well as inspiring audiences to play their part in addressing climate change, then we can build a more resilient future.

To find out more about how you can ‘do net zero’ visit: www.netzeronation.scot

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland Director of Events.

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