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Tate Declares ‘Climate Emergency,’ Plans to Significantly Reduce Carbon Footprint [Updated]

Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project, 2003.

©2019 TATE/MARCUS LEITH AND ANDREW DUNKLEY

With calls from activists to reform their practices, museums around the world are changing their ways. Now one high-profile European museum has revealed plans to go green.

In a release issued on Wednesday, Tate in London said that its directors have issued a “climate emergency.” Within the announcement, the directors pledged to reduce the museum’s carbon footprint by 10 percent within the coming four years, to switch its galleries to more environmentally friendly electrical systems, and to expand the green options available in its restaurants so that more vegetarian and vegan offerings are on the menu. Additionally, the museums will audit their staffs’ travel policies and encourage them to be “train-first.”

“We will interrogate our systems, our values and our programs, and look for ways to become more adaptive and responsible,” Tate’s directors said in the announcement. “As an organization that works with living artists, we should respond to and amplify their concerns. And, as our audiences and communities across the world confront climate extinction, so we must shine a spotlight on this critical issue through art.”

The announcement comes less than a week after Tate Modern opened an exhibition by Olafur Eliasson, whose work has long dealt with themes of environmental friendliness. The Icelandic artist has been given control of a café at Tate, and is now offering a menu of environmentally sustainable and locally sourced food based on a similar one he facilitates at his studio. He’s also debuting a new sculpture resembling a man-made waterfall in the museum’s terrace.

Several years ago, Tate was among the most notable British institutions that had come under fire for its connections to the oil company BP. In receiving funds from BP, activists alleged, Tate was helping promote the destruction of nature via the fossil fuel industry. In 2016 Tate said it would end its 26-year relationship with BP, following protests by the activist groups Liberate Tate and BP or Not BP. (Both groups have also protested the British Museum for its connections to BP. Earlier this week, one trustee at that institution resigned, citing BP’s funding as one of her reasons for doing so.)

At the end of its announcement, which can be found in full on Tate’s website, the directors state, “Our declaration of a climate emergency is just the beginning in our determination to effect and inspire change.”

In a statement to ARTnews, BP or Not BP said, “It’s great to see parts of the art world talking seriously about the climate challenge. But others are still lagging behind, particularly institutions like the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company, who—unlike Tate—still have a sponsorship deal with BP. To be actively promoting a fossil fuel company in the middle of a climate crisis is deeply irresponsible, and we hope that Tate’s declaration will make these other institutions think again.”

Update 7/18/19, 11:00 a.m.: This post has been updated to include a statement from BP or Not BP. 

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