The 1975 at London’s O2: Will carbon-removed shows change gigs?

Pooja Sharma
8 Min Read

The 1975 will play the O2 Arena next year and the gigs are being billed as the venue’s first ‘carbon-removed’ shows.

The four dates are part of Matty Healy and friends’ sold-out run across Europe in February and March.

It is not the first time that the foursome has shown an interest in the climate; activist Greta Thunberg appeared on the opening track of their 2020 album Notes on a Conditional Form.

And organizers AEG Europe claim the pilot project at the O2 will be a world first for a music event.

They say they have calculated how much carbon will be produced as a result of organizing and catering each show and the band’s travel.

And they’ve also taken into account an estimate of emissions caused by fans traveling to the gigs, which research shows is a major contributor.

The plan is to remove an equivalent amount from the atmosphere – AEG says this equates to 100 tonnes of carbon per show.

How will it work?

Carbon removal refers to the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

This can be done directly using technology, or influenced by natural systems such as forests.

Despite the label, the carbon is not actually removed during the performance, but by a start-up company called CUR8.

They say they use six methods, including tree planting and direct air capture, to remove an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

Some people are critical of removing CO2, saying it gives a false sense of security and distracts from reducing emissions in the first place.

But some scientific organisations, including one that advises the United Nations, have said the technique could be useful in sectors such as agriculture and long-haul transport, where emissions are harder to cut.

AEG’s sustainability boss Sam Booth admits there is “always more work to be done” but says the 1975 performances are “an opportunity to start a conversation”.

He tells Newsbeat that O2 wants to reduce emissions caused by ‘big cost’ items such as heating and power to the site.

The company currently runs on renewable energy and has banned beef from its concession stands due to its high carbon footprint.

But according to Sam, that’s only part of the answer.

“I think we’re at the point now in the climate debate where we can’t just do any of these things,” he says.

“You can’t just reduce your CO2 emissions, you have to do both.”

Net zero?

You’ve probably heard the term net zero before – and while carbon removal sounds the same, AEG is keen to emphasize that it’s not the same.

“Net Zero means reducing your carbon footprint by 90% and then eliminating the last 10%,” says Sam.

“So we wouldn’t call this one that, because this is not a perfect net zero event. I don’t think these really exist on a large scale yet.”

Christopher Johnson, a sustainability consultant who advises the British events, festival and music industries, thinks the O2 pilot is a good thing.

He tells Newsbeat that measures such as carbon removal are a “second step” after you reduce emissions.

But he points out that the O2 has already been “quite groundbreaking” in its efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from its events.

“It’s actually a very good example – and in a way, kudos to anyone who makes CO2 emissions sexy or interesting.”

And Christopher, who is also the founder of the Shambala festival, believes it is important to choose a high-profile act for the pilot performances.

“The most important thing here may not be the actual removal of carbon,” he says.

“What they effectively do is show that carbon emissions matter, and create an interesting and credible story to inspire the public and the industry.”

Carbon removal versus carbon offsets

Policy analyst Leo Mercer says AEG may have chosen to incentivize carbon removals for “marketing” reasons, as they are less controversial than carbon offsets.

Carbon offset programs attempt to balance emissions by finding other ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere by an equivalent amount, but carbon offsets do not necessarily remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Leo, from the Grantham Institute of the London School of Economics, says: “we are more confident than those [carbon removal] processes will lead to sustainable removal of carbon dioxide”.

He says it is easier for the live music industry to adopt carbon removal methods than others, such as heavy industry and agriculture.

But he says the O2 investment in carbon removal is a “positive” thing as companies race to meet national and international emissions targets.

“The carbon removal industry is still in its infancy right now,” he says.

“So it is positive that organizations such as the O2 are public about their tenders.”

Will carbon removal become more common at performances?

AEG tells Newsbeat that if the O2 pilot is deemed a success, it plans to introduce carbon removal at its venues and on its tours around the world to “inspire the reduction of carbon emissions in the live entertainment industry”.

That may mean an extra cost for the fans, but it is modest. At the O2 shows, 90p of the ticket price went to the initiative.

CUR8 says it has also spoken to other bands about carbon removal.

Whether it will catch on more widely in locations without AEG’s financial strength remains to be seen, but consultant Christopher thinks it’s an encouraging step.

“We need festivals, venues and artists to be innovative. And this is an example of innovation,” he says.

“I don’t think we should lose focus on the immediate actions we need to take to reduce emissions.

“And I think many festivals and venues could consider relocations or compensation in the future – but I wouldn’t want relocations to distract from the immediate action that is needed.”

Originally published by on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. SOURCE

Share This Article
Leave a comment