Massive Attack, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, and the decarbonization of live music

By Climate Champions | November 6, 2021

In 2019, multi award-winning UK band Massive Attack found themselves in a quandary. Having written and recorded a song about global warming as early as 1991; experimented with various carbon offset schemes, and even toured the US via rail during their Mezzanine XXI tour, the Bristol collective considered an end to touring completely in the face of the climate emergency.

Instead, they took a decision to make a wider, more profound contribution to decarbonization efforts.

The band commissioned the renowned Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research – a specialist body that brings together scientists, engineers, economists, and social scientists (across four UK universities) to accelerate society’s transition to a sustainable low carbon future  – to produce a roadmap for live music, setting out emissions reductions that would make the sector compatible with Paris/1.5C targets.

Daddy G & Robert “3D” Del Naja.

That work was completed and published during summer 2021, generating serious interest, debate and engagement. The report is clear, direct, and highly transferable. It deals with high visibility issues such as outdoor diesel power and the use of private aviation across the sector and offers targets and resolutions in all areas of GHG emissions generation, including energy use at indoor and outdoor shows, the surface travel of artists and equipment and, quite crucially, the field of scope 3 emissions such as audience travel — which create an enormous amount of all emissions associated with major live music events.

In addition to the specific areas to be tackled, the roadmap offers cultural direction to all identities within the live music world – artists, managers, agents, promoters, and festival owners – if these incredibly popular events are to play their part achieving zero carbon status, stating that: “Super low carbon needs to be baked into every decision – routing, venues, transport modes, set, audio and visual design, staffing, and promotion.” The roadmap is not prescriptive but rather offers a sense of the scale and urgency of emissions reductions that are both possible and required with the aim of acting as a catalyst for the creativity of the sector to be unleashed to meet this significant challenge.

Tyndall analysts also issued a warning in relation to the widespread use of carbon offset schemes across the live music industry, stating that these measures should be seen as a last resort and “only done where further reductions in emissions are not possible.”

As the music world absorbs and responds to the positive challenge of the decarbonization roadmap, Massive Attack are not only introducing innovative technological partners and planning methods into their 2022 tour; they have also become the first artists globally to commit their touring company to the Race to Zero programme, making plain and transparent their commitment to zero carbon operations.

The UNFCCC Climate Champions call on other music artists, touring companies, promoters, agencies, venues and practitioners to join the Race to Zero, via one of the official partner initiatives or, for organizations under 500 employees, via the SME Climate Hub.


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