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A group of British writers and illustrators have signed an open letter to UK publishers and literary agents calling on them to commit to reducing their greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

The letter was posted on the site Medium by Piers Torday, author of Salmon Fishing in Yemen.  It says: ‘At the moment of writing this, more than 650 companies have set targets with the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), in line with the 1.5°C trajectory. 110 companies are also participating in The Climate Pledge, aiming to reach the Paris Agreement goals 10 years early.

‘But as a group of writers and illustrators, passionate about communicating the urgency of the situation, the possibility of a more sustainable world and setting a good example to our readers, we are dismayed that so few UK publishers and literary agencies have signed up to these goals or made public their sustainability targets.

‘We call upon every publisher and literary agency operating in the UK to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. We have a responsibility to our readers and our communities to publish sustainably and ethically at this moment of crisis. We cannot simultaneously profit from addressing our greatest crisis whilst perpetuating it.

‘Climate action failure is the #1 global risk to every one of us. Climate change is real, it is impacting us now, and we cannot delay action.  This is our call to action today: Please commit to, develop and implement programmes that reduce your greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.  The window for action is narrowing every day. The time to act is now.’

In response, the Publishers Association welcomed the letter, with CEO Stephen Lotinga saying: “Publishers have been working on a significant programme of sustainability-focused work over the last 18 months that will be made public later this year. This has involved working with partners across the supply chain, engaging with businesses of every size to devise a set of tools and resources to help publishers mitigate their emissions and adapt their businesses for a zero-carbon future.  We expect to be able to make a public announcement in the near future that addresses the issues raised by this letter.”

Among the agent community, the Curtis Brown Group said: ‘We strongly recognise the urgency of reducing our carbon footprint and, prior to the pandemic, had set up an in-house committee formed of passionate members from across The Curtis Brown Group of companies, whose focus was to identify and address our biggest carbon energy outputs as a business.

‘We planned to launch a 2020 Green Manifesto based around reducing our carbon emissions through what was then our ‘normal’ working practice, tackling areas such as travel and green energy. As with so many other businesses, the pandemic has led us towards a completely new style of hybrid working and we are currently recalibrating our plan to ensure that we are making the most effective impact we possibly can.

‘We fervidly support this open letter and are deeply committed to playing our part to address the climate emergency, and to creating and sustaining meaningful change,  both across our own companies and in the wider industry.