London's Natural History Museum to cut emissions by 60% within a decade

In what it claims is the first 1.5C-aligned science-based emissions reductions target from a museum, the Natural History Museum has announced a new aim for a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2031.

Image: Natural History Museum

Image: Natural History Museum

The new 2031 target applies against a 2015 baseline and supports the South-Kensington-based Museum’s commitment to become a net-zero organisation by 2035. The 2035 target covers the Museum’s Scope 1 (direct), Scope 2 (power-related) and most prominent sources of Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, including procurement and travel. edie has been told that the new 2031 target, at present, is for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with the option for Scope 3 to be added at a later date. 

Museums are not, at present, able to apply for target verification through the Science-Based Targets initiative. The new target was, therefore, developed using a methodology developed by the Centre for Sustainable Organisations – a non-profit working in sustainability research and consultancy.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that the chances of capping the global temperature increase to 1.5C will be highest if global emissions are at least halved by 2030. Some organisations will be able to go further and faster and others, in high-emitting and hard-to-abate sectors, will find it challenging to deliver this pace and scale of reduction. As such, the Museum’s new target is context-based.

The Museum has already reduced emissions in recent years by installing onsite solar panels at its facility in Tring, retrofitting its buildings with LED lighting, improving insulation and achieving zero-waste-to-landfill status. It has also updated its staff travel policy in a bid to reduce emissions from business trips.

Decarbonisation activities planned in the coming years include installing more rooftop solar and upgrading the London estate’s energy centre to include an air-source heat pump, decreasing the need for gas. There is also a requirement for all new buildings and developments to be net-zero, including the science and digitisation centre at Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire, which is due to open in 2026.

Commenting on the new 2031 target, the Museum’s head of sustainability Wayne Hitchings said: “As an evidence-based research institute with 300 scientists and the first Museum to set a target like this, we are leading the way in creating a world where both people and the planet thrive. 

“From the energy we consume to the way we procure goods and services, we are going further to create a resilient and sustainable organisation which will reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2035.”

The announcement of the new climate targets comes after the Museum declared a planetary emergency in January 2020. The term ‘planetary emergency’ is used to describe interconnected environmental issues worsening exponentially, including biodiversity loss and global warming.

In terms of communicating the emergency with visitors, the Museum this year opened a free-to-attend display called “Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It”.


One week left to register: edie's online Net-Zero Carbon Inspiration Sessions

Readers interested in learning more about net-zero delivery for their own organisations are urged to register for edie's digital Net-Zero Carbon Inspiration Sessions, taking place on Thursday 25 November.

Sustainability specialists from Pukka Herbs, Virgin Media O2, Costain and the Zero Carbon Forum have been confirmed amongst the first speakers for this free-to-attend, half-day webinar event. Click here for full details and to register. 


Sarah George



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