It’s old news that Climate Change is one of the most, if not the most, pressing and crucial issues facing our generation. So much more needs to be done in order to reach the goals set out in the Irish government’s Climate Act 2021, which aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030. The government has often been accused of being complacent when it comes to the issue of climate change. Although this seems unrealistic, it is time that the environment stops being placed on the back burner. There needs to be more awareness and ultimately more action when it comes to our planet.
The Irish government has been attempting to tackle ongoing environmental issues, and one project which has arisen as a result of this is the Creative Climate Action Fund. The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht and Media, Catherine Martin, alongside the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and Transport, Eamon Ryan, first launched their Creative Climate Action Fund in July 2021, which was recently extended until July 2027. The aim of this €3 million fund? To provide support for creative and cultural based projects that engage the public about the behavioural changes society will have to make to address climate change and to engage the public with climate change through the Cultural and Creative Sectors’ initiative.
So what does this fund entail? It calls for projects which encourage everyone to rethink their lifestyles, connect with the biodiversity crisis, enable a fair and just transition in making lifestyle changes, assist citizens in understanding the climate crisis and adapt to the effects of climate change. There are two funding strands; Spark, intended for those piloting a new idea and wanting to deliver their project on a local level, which would allot successful applicants with a grant of €20,000 – €50,000. And Ignite, aimed at those with experience in delivering public engagement projects on a larger scale, for a longer duration and with extensive public participation. This strand is worth €50,000 – €250,000.
“According to Catherine Martin, ‘the first Creative Climate Action projects have done much to capture the public imagination, mobilise communities and show how to make the changes needed. Climate change is humanity’s most important challenge and we need creative projects such as these to galvanise positive action.'”
Both Ministers responsible for the fund have spoken about what they believe the importance of the fund is and how it will help Ireland reach its goals set out in the 2021 Climate Act. According to Catherine Martin, “the first Creative Climate Action projects have done much to capture the public imagination, mobilise communities and show how to make the changes needed. Climate change is humanity’s most important challenge and we need creative projects such as these to galvanise positive action.” Eamon Ryan has outlined that the cultural and systemic change that needs to be achieved in order to compact climate change “can only be achieved through fully exploring avenues for innovative and creative ways to inspire people to take action.”
So what projects have emerged from this €3 million fund and what impact have they had? Some previous projects that The Fund boasts include Línte na Farraige, Callan Energy Store, Field Exchange and RISING. Línte na Farraige consists of light installations at the Spanish Arch in Galway and Wexford Harbour which represent future predicted sea levels. The Callan Energy Store aims to improve the efficiency of the town and empower citizens to make changes surrounding energy supply, describing itself as a “playful, interactive space where you are invited to examine your energy consumption, explore the possibilities of your own energy production, and sign up to the Callan Climate Accord.” The Field Exchange is located on Brookfield Farm where farmers, experts, interested public and artists met and collaborated; exchanging ideas on how to combat climate change with particular focus on the impact climate change will have on the agriculture sector. Lastly, located in Dublin’s Docklands, RISING “brings together Trinity College Dublin and Brokentalkers Theatre Company who are providing opportunities for residents living around Dublin’s Docklands to engage with the topic of climate action through creative workshops and meetings with climate scientists.” This project premiered at Dublin Theatre Festival in October 2021.
“€3 million is a lot of money, and this begs the question of what else we could be doing to combat climate change other than the projects in place.”
So what impact is all of this having? The answer is obviously subjective, but the introduction of these projects definitely raises some questions. Personally, I strongly believe in the power of art to invoke emotions, and in the power of emotions to invoke action. Just think about the impact of art like Picasso’s Guernica or speeches like Luther King’s I Have a Dream. There is no doubt that art and creativity can be used to bring about change, which is why I do believe that it’s important that the creative and climate sectors come together to think of innovative ways to combat this issue. I also believe that the projects which have arisen as a result of The Fund have been important ones, addressing some of the biggest challenges which will arise for the Irish population, such as rising sea levels and a damaged agricultural sector, as a result of climate change.
However, some questions remain for me. As we’re all aware, Climate Change is an issue which demands immediate attention and funds, and as we hear time and time again, this problem needs to be acted upon before it’s too late. Having seen Línte na Farraige in person, I wonder what impact, if any, this will actually have; do we not all already know that sea levels will rise? And what energy is being used to run these installations? Could this have been used to supply energy to the homes of people who need it more? With regards to Field Exchange, there seems to be a lot of attention focused on what the agriculture industry can do to combat the issues climate change will cause, but is there much attention given to the fact that the agricultural sector is one of the principal causes of rising greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland? Perhaps these projects will make a difference at a local, community level, but we are in too deep with climate change. We should have been considering community level projects years ago. Now is the time to be making nation-wide efforts. Not to be cynical, but is there simply something more impactful that we could do with this money? €3 million is a lot of money, and this begs the question: what else could we be doing to combat climate change other than putting these projects in place?
“While the Creative Climate Fund is important, and while I believe that creativity has such an important role in invoking responses from people, part of me can’t help but think that this simply isn’t enough considering the battle we are facing.”
Time and time again, when the Irish government announces their plans to combat climate change, it seems to be a consistent theme that I just let out a sigh, that I am underwhelmed and disappointed. When will we finally start taking steps that will make a noticeable, immediate and lasting difference? While the Creative Climate Fund is important, and while I believe that creativity plays such an important role in invoking responses from people, part of me can’t help but think that this simply isn’t enough considering the battle we are facing. Are we entering a deadly war unarmed?