What does Copenhagen have to do with your museum?

What does Copenhagen have to do with your museum?

Sent Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Welcome to the Green Guide, the monthly newsletter published by

Greener Museums. 2009 is nearly over, but museums and the cultural

sector are stepping up to the challenge of sustainability.

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak at the Smithsonian Air

and Space Museum in Washington, DC on the State of Sustainable

Museums. It was great to be able to share my research in person at

one of my favorite museums. As I lived in Washington, DC for many

years, it was nice to be back.

Unfortunately, I brought the London weather with me!


What’s all the fuss about Copenhagen?

This month’s article looks at the upcoming COP-15 meeting that will

take place in Copenhagen, and why museums should care what happens.

This should act as a jolt of energy to get you thinking about what

your museum needs to do in 2010!

Here’s what’s in this issue:

* Feature Article: What Does Copenhagen Mean for Museums?

* Special Offer: Your Sustainability Breakthrough

* About Rachel Madan

Best wishes,

Rachel Madan

Director of Greener Museums


Feature Article: What Does Copenhagen Mean for Museums?

Next month, officials from 192 countries

will meet in Copenhagen for the fifteenth Conference of the

Parties, the highest body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate

Change. The goal of this meeting is to hammer out a global

agreement on climate change which will replace the Kyoto Protocol,

due to expire in 2012. Scientists are arguing for emissions

reductions of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and reductions of

80-90% by 2050.

Whoa. That’s a big reduction.

Imagine trying to reduce your museum’s spending by 40% over the

next 10 years, and reducing it by 90% over the next 40 years. You’d

probably say, “there’s no way we could continue to operate and

serve our audiences if we had to do that.” Your organization would

have to find efficiencies it never knew existed, and finally new

ways of operating.

This is the challenge the world is now facing when it comes to

agreeing to a new global agreement on climate change. Most rich

nations have so far not pledged reductions of the necessary

amounts. Developing counties are even further behind on reduction

pledges as they try to pull their people out of poverty.

While museums aren’t exactly power players when it comes to climate

negotiation, undoubtedly they will be affected by changes which

will occur from policy negotiations at Copenhagen. It’s important

for museums to understand where the trends are leading. To help

you, I’ve identified 7 trends likely to affect museums.

1. Increased cost of fossil fuels. Whether as a result of carbon

taxes, cap-and-trade or reduction of supply, the price of

fossil-fuel-based energy is almost certain to increase in the

future. Museums that must maintain tight environmental controls are

likely to be hit hard by such increases. Maintaining strict

temperature and humidity set-points is very costly. In addition,

fuel taxes are likely to be imposed on transportation fuels,

including -for the first time- jet fuel. Transport companies will

most likely pass on increases to customers, including museums that

transport objects across the world.

2. Incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The

flip side of increased fossil fuel prices is a likely decline in

the cost of generating renewable energy. Past incentives have

already lowered the cost of purchasing renewable energy. In the UK,

solar energy is predicted to cost the same as fossil fuel-based

energy in just 3 years time. In addition, financial incentives,

including low-interest loans, grants and reduced taxes, are

available. In the USA, the Database of State Incentives for

Renewables & Efficiency is a source of information on incentives

and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency

(http://www.dsireusa.org). In Europe, the European Commission’s

Climate Action website contains a link to grants and funding for

energy efficiency and renewable energy (


3. Decreased numbers of international tourists. The growth in

international air travel may slow. Airlines are targeted by climate

activists, and with good reason– air travel is one of the fastest-

growing sources of emissions. Airlines are now included in the

European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Australia and New Zealand

are already working on ETSs that cover domestic aviation. Japan has

a voluntary scheme, but is considering making it mandatory. It is

likely that airlines will pass on the costs of compliance to

passengers in the form of a tax or fee, on a round trip basis. This

could slow museums’ growth of audiences. On the other hand, what a

wonderful opportunity this presents to grow audiences closer to


4. Green-minded audiences. Protests outside of Nike. Protests

outside McDonalds. Protests outside Starbucks. Protests outside…

your museum? Could it happen? As sustainability percolates into

every aspect of life it’s not unreasonable to expect visitors to

start asking you the same questions they ask of other purveyors of

the stuff they consume in daily life. Copenhagen is sure to be a

huge media event and even those visitors who are not yet engaged

will probably start asking you questions, too. “Can I recycle this?

Where was this manufactured? Is it fairtrade?” Best to be ready

with the answer.

5. Increased taxes on waste. Methane is one of the six

greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol. It is also

extremely potent and produces 21 times more warming than carbon

dioxide. As waste is broken down by bacteria in landfills,

increasing amounts of methane are produced and escape into the

atmosphere. We are running out of space for landfill. Combined,

these pressures are leading many governments to impose increasing

landfill taxes. In the future, your trash pick-up will cost more.

6. Sustainable suppliers. In an economic downturn, retailers

(including your gift shop) will look for ways to squeeze out more

profitability from their shops. These strategies include more

efficient operations and better supply chains. But museum retailers

should not ignore the growing awareness that customers have of the

sustainability of products they purchase. Retailers that engage

with environmental and social issues will be rewarded, those that

ignore these issues do so at their own risk.

7. Opportunities for dialogue. Increasingly, museums and

cultural organizations are connecting virtually. This is a huge

opportunity to develop younger, more global audiences. Many museums

already connect with audiences through the web. Copenhagen provides

a great opportunity for museums to connect in a new way. An example

is Arts For COP15, a web-based network created by the Royal Society

for the Arts ‘Arts & Ecology Centre’. This network of artists and

arts professionals are producing work in the run up to and during

the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 09. Have

a look at http://www.arts4cop15.org


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