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Film and TV production worsens climate crisis

Streaming giants are making TV production worse for the environment than ever before according to new research into the environmental impact of film and television production from the University of Warwick and the University of Cambridge. One Hollywood film creates around 3,000 tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of driving around the world almost 300 times.

With the growth in streaming services, combined with bigger and more expensive TV production and international travel, the environmental impact of making our favourite programmes is leaving researchers hugely concerned.

The paper investigates the growing carbon-intensive infrastructure, high energy dependencies and waste production during filmmaking, highlighting that there is still a long way to go before the industry is truly climate conscious. The report lays out what digital practices should be implemented to move towards environmentally and socially sustainable filmmaking.

The new report, Sustainable Digitalisation: Ensuring a Sustainable Digital Future for UK Film and Television, has been produced by Dr Pietari Kaapa, Director of the University of Warwick’s Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies and Hunter Vaughan, Senior Research Associate at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Pietari Kaapa, said: “Film and TV studios have introduced sustainable strategies such as digital shooting, LED lighting, and moving to electronic documents, but these solutions can only make meaningful change if a larger scale shift occurs alongside it. With the rise of online streaming culture, devices and technological infrastructures also need to adjust to reduce the profound environmental affect it has on society.

“Our suggestion is to adopt sustainable digitalisation, but this requires changes that will reduce the reliance on practices such as metal mining and e-waste disposal in lower-income nations. The report sets out three recommendations that the sector and government should consider so that studios can move towards in a socially, and environmentally responsible way.”

The recommendations made are:

  • The film and television industry should lead on designing stringent life-cycle environmental assessment and policy frameworks that move towards sustainable digitalisation. This could include assessing materials used, and the life expectancy of infrastructures and parts to minimise replacement and waste.

  • The film and television industry should develop a Charter for Sustainable Digital Work to enhance social sustainability and labour protections against the threats of increased workplace digitalisation. This can include practices such as community assessment to guarantee that the construction, use, and pollutants of digital infrastructures in studios and on location do not disproportionately harm already marginalised communities.

  • And finally, a recommendation that industry and policy decision makers work together to drive reduction of fossil fuel dependency in filmmaking and encourage studios to prioritise the use of renewable energy where possible.