Music meets sustainability: A movement for climate action in Southeast Asia


In a world where music transcends boundaries and language, a new movement is growing in Southeast Asia that harmonizes the power of music with a commitment to environmental sustainability. 

For centuries, the diverse musical traditions of Southeast Asia have served as a universal language, fostering cultural exchange and knowledge transmission. Today, this musical legacy is taking on a new purpose: musicians from the region are lending their voices to move people to action around the climate crisis. 

This is part of a broader movement in which artists like Massive Attack, Billie Eilish and Radiohead have raised their voices about the climate crisis, made changes to the way they work and used the power of their music as a potent vehicle for conveying environmental concerns. Concerts with a sustainability focus, such as Coldplay's Music of the Spheres World Tour, have shown that music can entertain and inform simultaneously, and deliver a more climate-friendly musical experience.

Sustainable Practices Leading the Way for a Greener Music Industry

As the call for environmental sustainability grows louder, the music industry in Asia is slowly embracing sustainability. More and more concert productions, recording studios, and festivals are implementing eco-conscious measures. The Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand, a pioneer in this regard, has adopted waste reduction, recycling initiatives, and renewable energy sources. The Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia not only showcases diverse musical traditions but also promotes rainforest and environmental conservation.

Driven by a shared concern for the climate crisis, 13 Indonesian musicians came together as the founding members of IKLIM ‘the Indonesian Knowledge, Climate, Arts and Music Lab’. These leading Indonesian musicians of various genres such as Endah N Rhesa, Iga Massardi, Navicula Tony Q Rastafara, and others gathered in Bali earlier this year to gain a deep understanding of the causes of climate change, what needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions and how music and art can be powerful tools for climate action. Their collaboration resulted in the 'Sonic/panic' compilation album, released under Alarm Records, Indonesia's first environmentally conscious record label. The album's diverse genres unite under a common cause: the urgent call for climate action.

Music meets sustainability: A movement for climate action in Southeast Asia

Music meets sustainability: A movement for climate action in Southeast Asia

To celebrate the album's release on major digital platforms, the IKLIM Fest was held in Ubud on November 4, 2023. This event marked the first climate-conscious festival in Indonesia that implemented a 'Reuse Protocol' by Dietplastik Indonesia to reduce the large amounts of single-use waste typically generated at music festivals.

Gede Robi, vocalist and guitarist of Navicula, and a driving force behind IKLIM, said “Until now, there was no collective movement that united Indonesian musicians around the climate crisis. We are inspired by the global Music Declares Emergency movement, and aspire to encourage musicians across the Asian region to join us in taking climate action.” 

Furthermore, Robi outlined IKLIM's plans to broaden its reach by collaborating with more musicians and industry professionals across Indonesia and is currently actively promoting the joint movement among musicians in the Philippines, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and South Korea

"The ultimate objective," Robi elaborated, "is to promote sustainability within the music industry. IKLIM functions as a think-tank for making music more environmentally sustainable. As we continue to engage with industry stakeholders, our knowledge and experience will grow, enabling us to develop best practices for reducing the music industry’s carbon emissions. This, in turn, will empower musicians to play a more active role in both raising awareness and mitigating the impact of the climate crisis."

Charting a Path Forward

While challenges persist, which include limited knowledge and access to environmentally friendly solutions within the music industry, Robi believes that as more musicians and industry players join this collective effort, more solutions will emerge.

The establishment of Music Declares Emergency Indonesia, the first chapter of the global movement in Asia is an extension of the global movement that unites musicians, industry professionals and music lovers and transcends genres and borders to take a collective stand around the climate crisis. 

As sustainable practices become integrated into Asia's music industry, musicians in the region can set a standard for responsible entertainment. "The climate crisis has now taken centre stage for our generation, and the movement’s success hinges on collaboration, especially among industry stakeholders. We envision that our current efforts will serve as a blueprint for something much bigger in the future.”

Music meets sustainability: A movement for climate action in Southeast Asia

Music meets sustainability: A movement for climate action in Southeast Asia