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
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