Nick Nuttall - “We Need to Bring Together Different Voices, and Use Every Single Resource We Have to Cooperate”




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Apr 06, 2017
by Andrea Abellan
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Nick Nuttall - “We Need to Bring Together Different Voices, and Use Every Single Resource We Have to Cooperate”

Spokesperson and Director of Communications and Outreach for the UNFCCC comments on the potential of arts to fight against climate change Nick Nuttall attended Session 573 The Art of Resilience; Creativity, Courage and Renewal

The extent in which arts can help to tackle environmental issues was one of the topics discussed during Session 573 - The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal. Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson and Director of Communications and Outreach for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), explained to Salzburg Global how his organization is incorporating cultural solutions when tackling sustainability challenges. 

AA: In a nutshell, what is the strategy followed by the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCC) to raise awareness on climate change related issues?

NN: In the last few years, we have changed our narrative going from one of impossibility, fear, and hopelessness, to another that shows the amazing actions already happening around the world to assist in realizing smarter ways of managing our shared environment. Raising awareness, and more importantly catalyzing action on climate change, has perhaps unique complexities in part because of a perceived remoteness that people can feel about it. It can seem a very distant topic to citizens as its consequences, and the impact of our actions are often seem as long-term. However, we need to act quickly if we want to deal with it or we will not be able to avoid a highly risky future.

At the UNFCCC we aim to prove that everyone is responsible - albeit to different levels - and can do something about it at the same time. Even if it is a complex issue to solve, I am absolutely convinced that we can meet the challenges and unlock the opportunities toward a better world. 

AA: What does the team composition for such complex projects look like? Do professionals from different sectors cooperate together on the UNFCC campaigns? 

NN: Until recently, our focus was on national governments, but now our relations are increasingly multifaceted, and there are many more different people and sectors of society involved. Now and increasingly we count on not just governments but also mayors to business leaders, investors, architects, urban planners, scientists - many, many other actors. We also need to get the citizens on board, or we will be missing a big piece of the puzzle. If governments, no matter what their political views are, recognize the citizenship’s concern for environmental problems they will be empowered to ever higher ambition.

AA: What do you think about the way media generally covers climate change topics?

NN: The already mentioned long-implications of climate change do not always agree with media’s desire of immediacy. The coverage made by big media outlets of issues like climate change is often focused on high-profile conferences, and once they are finished the topic disappears from the front pages.

I find certain contradictions in the way media talks about the environment. For instance, it is possible to find an article in the newspaper warning about the melting of glaciers. Then, you can turn the page and read an airline’s advertisement selling cheap flights to go skiing to the same place.  And it seems that nobody makes the link between the two and reflects on the effects that one can have on the other.

AA: When discussing climate change, some media outlets will have a pundit who believes in climate change, and another who doesn't, in the name of balance. Should the pundits who don't believe in climate change be able to share that platform to speak from?

NN: It is true that journalism should, in principle give voice to opposing views. However, if something has moved to the kind of level of scientific certainty we have today with climate change, I do not think that the two voices to boost debate are useful if it is about opinion rather than science. Indeed after 20 years, the vast majority of world scientists have concluded that there is clear evidence that human beings and their activities are changing the climate. I think we have gone beyond the debate about whether climate change is happening or not. The question should be: “How fast is it going to move and how do we build the resilience of the most vulnerable countries and communities?”

AA: You have worked on very innovative campaigns such as the 1Heart1Tree project. Through this project, you managed to recreate a virtual forest in the center of Paris. Could you summarize this project?

NN: The artist, Naziha Mestaoui, had the idea of beaming virtual trees on one of the most iconic buildings of the world, the Eiffel Tower. By using an app, she managed to synchronize users’ heartbeats to make each growing tree projected onto the tower, grow with the rhythm of that person’s heart. The initiative was also taken to the “real world” by offering the possibility to plant real trees in seven different locations around the globe. Mestaoui’s idea is a great example of what arts and culture can do to fight against climate change. We assisted by providing our logo, which opened the door for funding while helping to promote her work step by step to reality.

AA: What about the Save the World II - Climate Change program pursued at Theater Bonn?

NN: This program has been running now for three years. It is a very unique idea, as it brings together bureaucrats and artists. We promote dialogue on what different sectors can do for climate change and related issues like poverty eradication. The results of the final outcomes and performances have always been far different to what I imagined they could have been at the outset. Moreover, I believe that having people from many different backgrounds sharing their points of view can be highly stimulating for the audience. We need to bring together different voices, and use every single resource we have to cooperate and shift perspectives and understanding - it has proven invaluable into demystifying complex issues and make them relevant to ordinary people so they can see why and how to act in their daily lives.

AA: How would you summarize your experience as a fellow at The Art of Resilience; Creativity, Courage and Renewal session?

NN: It has been fascinating.  I have attended similar events before, but I truly have enjoyed the tangible results we have achieved here. Together with my focus group, we have decided to establish a web page platform with the not-for-profit organization Julie’s Bicycle to showcase existing and upcoming art projects linked with climate change so we can give more visibility to the role of arts and culture in shaping public engagement. We have also decided to work with C40, a network of 90 megacities collaborating to cope with the effects of climate change. Eventually, I think we all have interconnected very well, and that is what it is all about.

UPDATE: After attending Salzburg Global, the UNFCCC has since launched the #Art4Climate campaign, which is taking place in the run up to this year's UN Climate Conference in Bonn. Each week, the UNFCCC will showcase one arts project which celebrates innovation, courage, and inspiration. For more information, click here

The Salzburg Global program The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage, and Renewal was part of the multi-year Culture, Arts and Society series. The session was supported by the Edward T. Cone Foundation. More information on the session can be found here: