Natural History Museum targets carbon neutrality by 2035

Pictured: An artist's impression of the Museum's planned redevelopment of its garden

The Museum’s new sustainability strategy, Sustainable by Nature, was launched late last week and is headlined by a commitment to bring emissions to net-zero by 2035 – 15 years ahead of the UK’s national target.

To meet this target without over-reliance on offsetting, the Museum has pledged to develop science-based targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory. It has said that it wants to have interim targets approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) by March 2022.

The SBTi requires all organisations setting 1.5C targets to cover their Scope 3 (indirect) emissions. With this in mind, the Museum will engage its 30 top suppliers to request data on emissions and will develop a sustainable procurement plan, applicable to existing and future contracts.

Aside from procurement, travel is a key source of Scope 3 emissions for the Museum. Sustainable by Nature includes a commitment to introduce a new travel policy for staff in 2021. This will halt domestic flights within the UK and international business-class flights. It will also see staff being surveyed about their commuting habits and needs, with the results to inform new solutions to be developed by a new working group.

Progress to date

The announcement of the new climate targets comes after the Museum declared a planetary emergency almost a year ago. The term ‘planetary emergency’ is used to describe interconnected environmental issues worsening exponentially, including biodiversity loss and global warming.

In its 2020 sustainability report, the Museum highlights its progress on several issues – notably low-carbon energy and resource management.

On the former, the Museum installed more than 300 solar panels on the rooftop of its facility in Tring this year. The system has a total capacity of 88kWp and is capable of generating up to 75,835kWh a year, enough to meet the entire building’s annual electricity needs. Some £9,100 will be cut from the organisation’s annual utility bills due to the array.

On resources, the Museum has reached 100% recyclability and 70% recycled content for plastic food packaging in partnership with its catering provider Benugo. It has also phased out plastic cutlery, straws and packaging for fruit and vegetable deliveries.

Sustainable by Nature includes a new commitment to increase the operational recycling rate to at least 60% by 2023. The Museum is already operating on a zero-waste-to-landfill basis but would like to use recycling and upcycling more, and rely less on energy-from-waste.

“As a globally important cultural and scientific institution, it’s not just important that we create a greener Museum, it’s one of our greatest responsibilities –  and in doing so we can pave the way for others to do the same,” Museum director Doug Gurr said.

Sarah George

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