Culture for climate change

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Greater Manchester

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Main actors

Private Sector, NGO / Philanthropy, Research Institutes / Universities

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Project area

Metropolitan Area

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Ongoing since 2010/01

The Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) is mobilising the arts and culture sector to contribute to local climate change policies.

Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) is a cross-sector network of 30 cultural and arts organisations committed to working together to reduce their environmental impacts and foster collaborative learning. MAST started out with a focus on promoting and sharing good practice amongst its members. This has grown to encompass the development of joint initiatives amongst members, from joint procurement of smart energy monitors and rechargeable battery packs to Carbon Literacy Training. A range of local collaborations and partnerships have also been developed.

In 2016 MAST members participated in Manchester Climate Lab, a programme of experimental activities to test different techniques for engaging and inspiring people to act on climate change. Building on this successful programme, MAST is working to develop new programmes of arts and culture-based activities and engage Manchester stakeholders in the delivery of the city’s climate change strategy for 2017-50.

Sustainable Development Goals

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

URBACT Good Practice Label

This project was awarded the 'URBACT Good Practice Label' in 2017.

Greater Manchester, United Kingdom

Size and population development
The metropolitan area of Greater Manchester has a population of 3.2 million with Manchester housing 545,000, citizens. (world population view 2018) The 2011 census recorded Manchester as the third fastest-growing region in the United Kingdom with the greatest percentage growth outside of London, increasing 19% in a decade. Manchester is expected to continue its fairly rapid growth in the coming years.

Population composition
The ethnicity breakdown of Manchester city is, White groups (66.7% ), Asian (17.1%), Black (8.6%), Mixed (4.7%), Chinese (2.7%), Arab (1.9%), Other (1.2%). Since 2001, the share of Christians in Manchester has from 62.4% to 48.7%, while the percentage of people with no religious affiliation increased from 16% to 25.4%. The percentage of Muslims has increased as well from 9.1% to 15.8%. Manchester has the largest Jewish population in Britain outside of London. Manchester also has a percentage of gay and lesbian people that is higher than the English national average: 0.23% of people were in a same-sex civil partnership, compared to the national average of 0.16%.

Main functions
Manchester city and metropolitan borough is located in the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester in North Western England. The city is known as an economic knowledge-led centre, with research and enterprise clustered around the University of Manchester which ranks third in research outputs behind Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Manchester city is also a key location for many foreign owned companies and headquarters. The City Council also plays an active role in business, where it owns key infrastructures such as a stake in Manchester Airport group and is the owner of the City of Manchester Stadium, home to one of the world’s highest earning football clubs.

Main industries / business
The main industries operating in Manchester are: digital and creative, education, financial, legal and business services, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, environmental technologies, tourism and media.

Sources for city budget
The 2017-2020 budget is derived from, Business rates (56%), Council tax (27%), Income from council investments such as Manchester airport (9%), Government funding (8%)

Administrative structure
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) was established on 1 April 2011 and consists of eleven indirectly elected members, each a directly elected councillor from one of the ten metropolitan boroughs that comprise Greater Manchester together with the Mayor of Greater Manchester. The authority derives most of its powers from the Local Government Act 2000 and replaced a range of single-purpose joint boards and quangos to provide a formal administrative authority for Greater Manchester. The costs of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority that are reasonably attributable to the exercise of its functions relating to public transport, economic development and regeneration are met by its constituent councils. Such costs are funded by direct government grant and with some money collected with local Council apportioned between the constituent councils.

MAST was established in 2010 by a group of Manchester-based arts and culture organisations. It was initiated to help Manchester's cultural sector understand how they could contribute to the delivery of sustainability initiatives like Manchester Climate Lab. During this period MAST agreed that it would match the city’s target of reducing carbon emissions by 41% by 2020.


  • Reduce the environmental impacts of the arts and cultural sector across Manchester
  • Engage with employees and other relevant stakeholders on environmental issues
  • Foster collaborative learning across the city in a shared commitment to developing a sustainable and equitable future.


  • take a lead role in working towards the city’s climate change ambitions
  • grow its reach and influence across the arts and culture in Manchester and beyond, and use this opportunity to grow an ethically driven creative economy - new skills, jobs and opportunities for a sustainable Manchester
  • defining a new set of commitments, targets and actions in line with the city’s zero carbon, zero waste and climate resilience ambitions
  • supporting delivery of the engagement strand of the city’s climate change strategy
  • developing skills, capacity and collaboration within the network to support a new level of ambition
  • growing and developing the MAST network
  • increasing MAST’s profile
  • explore funding options to enable MAST to build on its success

Action plans have been developed for individual MAST members, to embed action on climate change throughout their organisations. MAST members have undertaken renewable energy procurement, innovative and co-operative approaches to upcycling, reuse and recycling, and staff engagement campaigns. MAST participates in various national conversations, as part of the co-development of a UK-wide response to climate change by the arts and culture sector. MAST has developed its own Environmental Sustainability Toolkit.

The MAST network is rooted in the city, enabling members to meet face-to-face, share common challenges and opportunities and link directly to what is happening on a city level. Its approach is participatory and non-prescriptive, bringing together diverse organisations to develop a common understanding of environmental issues and take action. It fosters accountability to their shared mission and the communities they serve, including impact assessment. Annual reporting includes practical actions, creative responses, programming, learning and outreach, engaging teams, audiences and local communities.

MAST budget to date is 250,000 Euro.

Participating organisations include:

  1. Manchester Art Gallery
  2. Whitworth Art Gallery
  3. Manchester Museum
  4. Royal Exchange Theatre
  5. HOME
  6. Band on the Wall
  7. Manchester International Festival
  8. Walk The Plank
  9. BBC
  10. Contact Theatre
  11. Jewish Museum
  12. RNCM
  13. ZArts
  14. The Lowry Centre
  15. MOSI
  16. CG Associates - Castlefield Gallery
  17. ITV
  18. Manchester Pride
  19. Community Arts Northwest
  20. Chinese Arts Centre
  21. University of Manchester
  22. Waterside Arts Centre

As a network, MAST has achieved an average CO2e reduction of 7% per year.

Each member organisation has undertaken specific actions across the city in a shared commitment to developing a sustainable and equitable future:

  • TV soap opera: Coronation Street – climate change included as part of the story lines;
  • Theatre: Contact Theatre – hosted “Our City, Our Planet” for young people to explore the issue of climate change and the future they want for the city;
  • Municipality: Manchester City Council – sustainable events action plan;
  • Manchester Universities: poetry events, role-playing, song-writing and music events; performance art; street games;
  • Museum: Manchester Museum – 90,000 visitors attended the “Climate Control” exhibition;
  • Major festival: Manchester International Festival – biannual festival whose Green Team are responsible for reducing the festival’s environmental impact;
  • Art gallery: The Whitworth – award-winning £15 million redevelopment project, including best practice standards for reducing energy and CO2

The following ingredients are enabling MAST to support Manchester city’s efforts to achieve the objectives set by the Paris Agreement and the SDG’s.

  • Local climate mitigation policy: developing local policies/strategies against climate change, and setting out the need for all organisations and individuals in a city to act;
  • Governance and partnerships: MAST is a network that is linked to Manchester’s wider governance structures. It is not a formally constituted body and therefore avoids the associated legal and financial issues;
  • Arts and culture sector: MAST is open to small, medium and large organisations, working across a range of different artistic activities;
  • Funding: the large MAST members pay a fee which collectively totals £7,000 per year. This is used for the production of the annual report and the delivery of joint projects. Small organisations are not required to pay. Additional external funding is sought on a project-by-project basis;
  • Tools: MAST’s Environmental Sustainability Toolkit could be adapted and used by other cities. MAST members use the free online Creative IG Tools for measuring environmental performance in the arts and cultural sector.  The tools have been translated into nine EU languages to date. Albert+ is an environmental standard for TV production (originally developed by BBC in Manchester) and available at

URBACT case study: Culture for climate change: mobilising arts and culture sector to contribute to local climate change policies:

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URBACT Good Practice Label
Grand Paris, France

URBACT Good Practice Label

Institution | European Territorial Cooperation program

Grainne Bradley
Manchester, United Kingdom

Grainne Bradley

Individual | Local Government Officer

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