Introduction and background


( Toolbox )


Climate change poses a tremendous threat to people, and nature, but that threat is not felt evenly. Climate change is a magnifier of injustice. It will drive inequality and intolerance. Climate change is bad news for everyone. Climate action, which we will explore in the Toolbox, requires deep and rapid transformations in society. However, institutions and sectors – including museums – are often unprepared for these transformations. Action is woefully insufficient to address the challenge.

The Toolbox brings together information on climate change policy, sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals, and a number of approaches that museums can draw on to inform their activities. The Toolbox explores some of the ideas that were generated through the project Reimagining Museums for Climate Action, which included a design competition, exhibition, website and book.

The Toolbox consists of a variety of approaches that you can pick and choose from, depending on your context, challenges, and aspirations. It is not intended to be the last word on the subject, or to be read from start to finish as a single tool: think of it as a go-to manual.

Climate change is complex, and the challenges, and appropriate responses, vary from place to place, and community to community. That is why this collection is a Toolbox, rather than a tool or a toolkit.

The Toolbox has been formatted to be used on a computer screen. Hyperlinks are embedded in this file, to access further information. If you do plan to print this document, please think of the environment, print only what you need, and print double-sided.

It is suggested that all readers explore the questions in section b, as well as sections on climate impacts (section c), climate mitigation (section d), climate adaptation (section e) and human rights and climate change (section f). Finally, all readers should explore section r, which includes current opportunities to take part in climate action.


Climate change poses a tremendous threat to people, and nature, but that threat is not felt evenly. Climate change is a magnifier of injustice. It will drive inequality and intolerance. Climate change is bad news for everyone. Climate action, which we will explore in the Toolbox, requires deep and rapid transformations in society. However, institutions and sectors – including museums – are often unprepared for these transformations. Action is woefully insufficient to address the challenge.

This Toolbox draws upon a number of foundational concepts and frameworks. Among these are:

  • The United Nations Framework for Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, and Action for Climate Empowerment
  • Climate mitigation (reducing emissions) and climate adaptation (coping with change)
  • Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Disaster Risk Reduction approaches
  • Human rights, climate justice and a just transition
  • Education for Sustainable Development and other relevant pedagogies
  • Differentiated national and institutional responsibilities in relation to climate change and sustainable development
  • Nature’s role in climate action, and supporting positive relationships with nature

The Toolbox aims to help you understand how each of these relates to climate action, and gives practical links and actions to help you make use of them in museums, to support people’s individual and collective responses to climate change.


This Toolbox aims to strengthen the connections between six contemporary concerns:

  1. The scientific and political consensus that drastic action is required to address climate change.
  2. The recognition that the world’s challenges – social, economic and environmental – are interconnected and can’t be tackled in isolation from one another, as set out in Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. The widespread calls for greater action on climate change from the public.
  4. The commitment from the international museum sector, made in 2019, to accelerate its activity in support of sustainable development, using Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals as its blueprint to do so.
  5. The recognition of the key role that museums and cultural institutions have in supporting the achievement of Article 6 of the UNFCCC and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement (Action for Climate Empowerment) by governments at COP24 and COP25.
  6. An acknowledgement that museums are implicated in the unsustainable world we live in – with its social, economic and environmental challenges – and a sustainable future requires different forms of institution and museum practice.

This Toolbox is intended to help museums and those who work in them, their partners, and the broader public, to accelerate their activity to support climate action. This overarching aim is achieved through the following approaches:

  • Raising people’s awareness of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, and the ways in which museums can help support these agendas through their activities.
  • Empowering people to connect their work with Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, as the main current blueprint for sustainable development activity worldwide, tailored to local circumstances.
  • Familiarising readers with the main elements of climate action – mitigation, resilience and adaptation – and of climate justice, and the ways that museums can support these.
  • Fostering a greater awareness of the ways that climate change relates to human rights, how museums relate to human rights, and how to use human rights-based approaches as a basis and rationale for climate action.
  • Inviting people to reconsider and reimagine museums – whether their own or more broadly – to better support people as individuals, communities and society to meet and face the challenges presented by climate change, now and in the future.


  • Museums and museum workers everywhere
  • Those who work with, or could work with, museums to enhance and accelerate climate action
  • Museum policy makers, and climate policy makers
  • Museum funders
  • Researchers studying museums and/or climate action
  • People working with climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Planners and those involved in urban and community development
  • Museum sector support organisations, and those responsible for museum certification and training of staff and students
  • Government departments and officials
  • Ultimately, this Toolbox is intended to benefit all those who make use of museums, including individual members of the public. It is aimed at providing more effective, transparent and transformative public services through museums.


This Toolbox is focused on climate change, widely recognised as one of the biggest and most complex challenges facing humankind, and also facing nature, but climate is only really half of the problem. In many ways, it is merely the symptom – albeit a very serious one – of a deeper malaise, namely an unsustainable relationship between human society and the natural environment. The world is currently on track for three or more degrees of warming compared to pre-1900 levels. This would be a disaster. To lay out the ‘groundwork’:

  1. Climate change will affect all of us, if it isn’t already affecting you. It will affect the most vulnerable worst, those who contributed and contribute least to the problem, which is deeply unfair.
  2. We all contribute to climate change, to different degrees.
  3. We can all contribute to climate action.
  4. People need opportunities to know what they can do to contribute to climate action, and they have the right to do so.
  5. There is no ‘one size fits all’: people, communities, and particular social groups all need information and opportunities that are suitable for them, in order to be able to participate in climate action effectively.
  6. Museums have a lot of potential to support people to take climate action.
  7. Climate change also requires a radical adjustment to thinking what museum are and how they do things, to be more effective in supporting climate action everywhere.
  8. Museums, as an existing infrastructure associated with modernity, are also part of the system that has resulted in the challenge of climate change. They too need to change to contribute effectively to a sustainable future, and to change within the context of a wider reshaping of organisations, institutions, and structures that collectively form the basis of a sustainable society in a sustainable world.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its Article 1, defines climate change as: ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition and climate variability attributable to natural causes.


  • Burning fossil fuels as a source of energy, in homes, industry and transport
  • Degrading land and soil so that it releases greenhouse gases or is unable to remove them from the atmosphere
  • Destroying forests, especially by burning. Most forest clearance is for agriculture.
  • Release of methane and other greenhouse gases from melting permafrost, paddyfields and degraded peatlands.
  • Production of fertilisers.
  • Production of concrete and cement.
  • Release of other greenhouse gases from domestic and industrial settings.
  • Increasing numbers of cows, sheep and goats which release methane through their digestion process.
  • General wastefulness, with over-production, over-consumption of natural resources, waste of used resources that could be reused or recycled, and high-energy lifestyles among a relatively small proportion of people.


Greenhouse gases are those responsible for causing global warming and climate change. The major GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). Less prevalent, but very powerful, greenhouse gases are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Climate action is typically thought of in two forms:

Mitigation action, that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, or strengthens nature’s ability to absorb them (for example by protecting or creating wetlands, or planting trees).

Adaptation action, meaning action that enables people and nature to cope with climate impacts. This is typically thought of as consisting of three main groups of actions: structural/physical adaptation, which protect lives and property from climate impacts, such as flood defences, development of new crop varieties, or helps nature face climate impacts; social adaptation, including education, awareness and skills development; and institutional adaptation, including laws and policies.

We can think of this simply as:

  1. Reducing greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorine gases)
  2. Strengthening nature (protecting forests, healthy soils and wetlands, healthy seas and oceans)
  3. Adaptation actions
  4. Climate justice and a just transition – meaning that climate action is undertaken in ways that are fair, inclusive and that don’t lead to further injustice

Note, the use of the term mitigation is quite specific: when people talk about ‘mitigating climate change’ they often mean reducing the impact of climate change, which is adaptation action, not mitigation action. Climate mitigation means reducing emissions and strengthening greenhouse gas removal.


The terminology of climate neutral, carbon neutral and net zero can be confusing, but there are important differences. While there are no universally agreed definitions, the UN Climate Neutral Now initiative uses the terms in the following ways:

Climate Neutrality
A balance between GHG emissions and removals. Achievable at global/planetary level, and at stakeholder (companies, organizations, subnational authorities, individuals) level. At stakeholder level, only carbon credits from projects that capture GHGs in the long term can be used.

Carbon Neutrality
Action by a stakeholder (company, organization, subnational authority, individual) to reduce and avoid emissions, and then compensate the remaining ones through the use of carbon credits. Use of carbon credits from projects that reduce, avoid and temporarily capture GHGs is possible. Not applicable at global/planetary level.

Net Zero
Is regarded as synonymous with carbon neutrality.

The most important thing to note is that the priority in all of these must be a firm commitment to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, before any consideration of offsetting in whatever form. The key difference between climate neutrality and carbon neutrality/net zero, is that climate neutrality does not allow for the use of short-term offsets. Only projects supporting long-term storage of greenhouse gases are permissible. Many organisations are declaring their intention to be ‘net zero’, which should be backed up by concrete plans that are reported upon transparently.

The UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement

One of the outcomes of the Rio Earth Summit (1992) was an international convention, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Countries committed to the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system …” (United Nations 1992, Article 2)

Since it came into force, in 1994, signatories (called Parties) have met yearly to monitor progress and debate issues, at conferences called the COP (Conference of the Parties). Important developments since 1994 include the Kyoto Protocol, which further committed signatories to reduce (rather than stabilise) greenhouse gas emissions, and the Paris Agreement of 2015, which set to limit average temperature rise well below 2˚C, and preferably to 1.5˚C compared to 1900 levels. Countries make their own plans to deliver these commitments, called Nationally Determined Contributions.

The development of the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement, and action to support their achievement, are presented in an interative timeline.

To browse commitments made by countries, see the NDC Registry.

The Climate Action Tracker tracks climate action by governments to assess likely temperature rise from countries’ commitments, and more detailed analysis by sector.

Museums, among a range of other institutions, were specifically mentioned in the Katowice Package/Paris Work programme, adopted at COP24 in 2018 by governments. This was an important recognition of the key role they play in public education, training, public awareness, access to information, public participation and international co-operation in climate change matters, which are the basis of Article 6 of the UNFCCC and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, referred to as Action for Climate Empowerment.


What is this?

Sustainable development is commonly defined as “development [activity] that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, from Our Common Future (the Brundtland Report, 1987). Sustainable development means trying to achieve a better balance of considerations of people, planet and prosperity, as a basis for a peaceful and harmonious world.

Why is it important?

Climate action has to be undertaken in ways that don’t create new problems, or that move problems elsewhere. For example, tree planting could contribute to climate mitigation, but may inadvertently be harmful for nature when the wrong kinds of trees are planted in the wrong place, and valuable habitats destroyed. Similarly, people may be dispossessed of land, food or opportunity through ineffective climate action. Sustainable development recognises that challenges are interconnected, and have to be considered together.

“The problems of today do not come with a tag marked energy or economy or CO2 or demography, nor with a label indicating a country or a region. The problems are multi-disciplinary and transnational or global.

The problems are not primarily scientific and technological. In science we have the knowledge and in technology the tools. The problems are basically political, economic, and cultural.”
P. Lindblom, 1985¹

Agenda 2030 was adopted in 2015 as the blueprint for sustainable development, to address the lack of progress with multiple international agreements, and recognising that challenges can’t be tackled one after the other or without considering how actions for one problem might create new problems elsewhere. Agenda 2030 will run to 2030, and is an invitation to all sectors to collaborate in a renewed global partnership for sustainable development.

Agenda 2030 is largely achieved through 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), supported by 169 targets. ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’ is the subject of SDG 13, but climate change is mentioned in the targets for other SDGs, and is relevant to many more. There are many connections between climate change and the SDGs, including:

  1. climate change threatens to undermine activity for all of the SDGs.
  2. all of the SDGs can be directed towards supporting climate action, in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening nature’s ability to absorb carbon and trap, and helping people be resilient to, and be able to adapt to, climate change.

The SDGs are mainstreamed across the UN system, and are an excellent access point for information, resources and tools that support climate action, including both adaptation and mitigation.

¹Lindblom, P. 1985. International Federation of Institutes of Advanced Studies. World Council on Environment and Development. Public Hearing: Oslo, Norway.

What does this mean for museums?

Museums can use the Sustainable Development Goals and their targets to plan for climate action that doesn’t inadvertently cause other problems, but that creates social, economic and environmental co-benefits.

For further information on how the SDGs relate to museums, and vice versa, see:

Museums and the Sustainable Development Goals: a how-to guide for museums, galleries, cultural institutions and their partners (2019) LINK

Mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals: a results framework for galleries, libraries, archives and museums (2021) LINK

ICCROM’s Our Collections Matter Toolkit provides a wide range of tools for collections-based institutions to use to enhance their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals. LINK

170 Actions to Combat Climate Change, by UN Geneva, is organised around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Museums can use the actions to plan the support they provide to people, to empower them to take climate action. LINK

The Good Life Goals, by Futerra and partners, are a public-friendly version of the Sustainable Development Goals, with five suggested actions for each goal. LINK


There are an estimated 95,000 museums in the world (at least there were before the COVID-19 crisis). They reach huge numbers of people – probably around 1-2 billion visits each year, and at least have the potential to support people to take part in climate action and sustainable development (which, as we will see, people are entitled to as part of their human rights). Many museums are already working to support sustainable development, and the International Council of Museums – the leading organisation representing museums and museum workers everywhere – adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in 2019, as its blueprint for activity to contribute to a more sustainable future, both through the programmes museums offer to the public and other stakeholders, and to address their own negative impacts.

As a global cultural infrastructure, museums can connect global agendas – addressing climate change, preventing biodiversity loss, reducing poverty and inequality – with local circumstances, and to support people to participate in climate action and other sustainable development activities.

However, supporting people to participate in climate action remains a small part of museum’s activity, and the museum sector is in the early stages of taking up sustainable development activity in a meaningful way. Most museums remain silent on sustainable development, although many are interested in doing more. Tourism – which many museums encourage – is a rapidly expanding sector with enormous greenhouse gas emissions, representing around 8% of global emissions. Museums are also embedded in the society and societies that have led to a world of growing inequality, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Museums also consume vast quantities of energy, are often in old or inefficient buildings, and professional standards for maintaining environmental controls in collections stores and exhibitions are very energy hungry. Hidden aspects of museums’ activity – their funders, pension funds and investments, and sponsors – may also be supporting industries that are responsible for damaging the climate and natural environment, or that put people, communities and countries at risk through exploitation that erodes their resilience and capacity to deal with climate change. Museums, like many institutions, are also slow to change: too slow to meet the rapid rate of change that we face today, or to meet the scale of the challenges in the required timeframe.

Museums typically aim to educate, inform and inspire people, but it is often unclear what they are educating or informing them about, or what they are inspiring them to do.

Public museums have mostly developed over the last 200 or so years; the collections of many of them developed as a result of links to colonial and/or imperial expansion, and coinciding with a period of massive and rapidly accelerating environmental exploitation and destruction. The failure to realise a sustainable future is thus also a failure of institutions and organisations, including museums.

So, we see that museums can be both part of the solution in addressing climate change, but they are also part of the problem, with a huge potential to engage people in climate action, while also consuming huge volumes of resources. Climate change will transform our world in profoundly negative ways (we will explore the impacts in more detail further on): sectors, including museums, can’t expect to go on as they did before. Climate action needs everyone, and every organisation and institution.

Different futures will require different approaches, wholesale and everywhere.

This Toolbox explores some of the key sustainable development approaches and elements, and a reimagining of museums for climate action. You are invited to consider how you could incorporate these ideas and approaches – practically and/or imaginatively – into your work, and to reprioritise what is considered important or as a picture of success. What we present here is not necessarily a new vision for museums, but we hope a wide selection of concepts and ideas that you can use in your work.

Having read this Toolbox, you should know about some of the challenges and opportunities for museums to contribute meaningfully to climate action, and you should have access to practical tools and approaches that you can use to support climate action through museums more effectively. The rest is up to you.

Imagine if every community had access to cultural infrastructure – in whatever form – that supported people, as individuals, to contribute effectively to sustainable development, to imagine, debate and create communities and whole societies where people lived in peace and tolerance with one another, where everyone had the information, attitudes and practical skills to know how to live in harmony with nature, and where communities and societies didn’t just survive, but thrived and developed positively over time.

To use the language of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, we must ensure we ‘leave no-one behind’: no-one, no community, no sector and no museum.

What has been happening in the museum sector?

At a museum sector level, ICOM has passed many Resolutions relating to climate change and sustainable development, highlighting, for example, the need to protect and conserve global cultural and natural heritage (e.g. Copenhagen, 1974), the importance of training of staff to support sustainability (Stavanger, 1995), and the need to address climate change (Shanghai, 2010).

In 2019, the ICOM General Assembly, held in Kyoto, Japan, included a major strand on sustainability. One of the outcomes of the conference was the adoption of two Resolutions related to sustainability and sutainable development. The first of these, ‘On Sustainability and the Implementation of Agenda 2030 ‘Transforming Our World’ makes the following recommendations:

  1. recognise that all museums have a role to play in shaping and creating a sustainable future through our various programmes, partnerships and operations;
  2. endorse the urgent call by ICOM’s Working Group on Sustainability for museums to respond through rethinking and recasting their values, missions, and strategies;
  3. become familiar with, and assist in all ways possible, the goals and targets of the UN SDGs and use the 2030 ‘Transforming our World’ Agenda as the guiding framework to incorporate sustainability into our own internal and external practices and educational programming; and
  4. empower ourselves, our visitors and our communities through making positive contributions to achieving the goals of Agenda 2030, Transforming Our World; acknowledging and reducing our environmental impact, including our carbon footprint, and helping secure a sustainable future for all inhabitants of the planet: human and non-human.

Science centres and museums have adopted the SDGs as a framework for supporting sustainable development, in the Tokyo Protocol, adopted in 2017.

There have been many conferences on what museums could do to address climate change, which have helped build greater common awareness and knowledge of what actions are needed. These have resulted in many publications. Many museums have held exhibitions and events linked to climate change. Some examples of these are illustrated on the Museums and Climate Change Network website, and on the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice website.

Museums have participated in the UN processes to support the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement.For an overview of activity in museums related to the six elements of Action for Climate Empowerment see the following submissions, made to the UNFCCC to inform the development of programmes to support the Paris Agreement:

Museums as Key Sites to Accelerate Climate Change Education, Action, Research and Partnerships” (submission to the Talanoa Dialogue, 2018)

Information on Steps Taken by Global Museums to Implement the Doha Work Programme and in Relation to Action for Climate Empowerment” (submission to Doha Review, 2020)

Museums often consume huge amounts of energy, and continue to use fossil fuels as an energy source (either in the generation of electricity, or directly as oil or gas). This will require a radical transformation to be anywhere close to the requirements of Paris Agreement targets. Some museums are taking practical steps to reduce their carbon footprint, but environmental standards in collections care remain a barrier. The Climate Toolkit presents how some museums, notably in the US, are aggressively reducing their carbon footprints, and provides resources to help others do the same.

Museums that are expanding without addressing their carbon footprint are headed in the wrong direction. They need to peak their emissions as soon as possible and rapidly transform to be part of climate action.

Reframing Climate Change

Let’s look at climate change from some alternative perspectives. What beliefs do you hold about climate change, and what needs to be done? Reframing helps to look at climate change from a different perspective, and create new opportunities to explore what we can do, individually and collectively. Some of these may seem more realistic or applicable than others, but think of them as thought experiments. Add your own ones, or focus on a few of them, it doesn’t matter. Changing the framing changes the outcomes. Through this Toolbox we will explore some of these reframings, and agendas, models and tools that can be applied to these alternative ways of approaching the challenge.

Typical framingAlternative framing
Climate change is a problem of the future Climate change is a problem of the past and the present
Climate change will happen somewhere else, and it will be worse thereClimate change is already happening here, and the impacts are more severe than we realise
Climate change is a scientific problemClimate change is a problem of a cultural making
Climate change is the problemClimate change is a symptom of a deeper problem
Climate change is very complicated to addressClimate change is very simple to address
Climate change is for politicians to addressClimate change is for everybody to address
Climate change will be addressed by technological solutionsClimate change will be addressed by culture change
You need to know about climate change before you can act to address itYou don’t need to know anything about climate change in order to address it
We have to minimise the harm that we do, as a baselineWe have to maximise the positive contributions that we can make, as a baseline
It’s more important to uphold professional standards than address climate changeIt’s more important to change professional standards and practices to meet the requirements of climate action
Other people and countries should address climate change before I will do so myselfI should address climate change myself before expecting other people and countries do so
Climate action is about solutionsClimate action is about responses
Climate action means changing people’s behaviourClimate action means empowering people to take part

Public mandate for more ambitious climate action across society

Why should museums support climate action? There have been a number of major surveys of public opinion on what society’s priorities should be. These provide a strong public mandate, in addition to the very real public need for climate action, to be explored in further sections.

The Peoples' Climate Vote

The People’s Climate Vote, launched by UNDP and partners was “the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted.” The People’s Climate Vote used a new and unconventional approach to polling, with results that “span 50 countries covering 56% of the world’s population.”

“The survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate. It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.”
Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme

Key findings include the following:

  • With 1.2 million respondents, the survey has involved unprecedented levels of polling and responses.
  • Over all 50 countries, 64% of people said that climate change was an emergency – presenting a clear and convincing call for decision-makers to step up on ambition.
  • The highest level of support was in Small Island Developing States (74%), followed by high-income countries (72%), middle-income countries (62%), then Least Developed Countries (58%).
  • Regionally, the proportion of people who said climate change is a global emergency had a high level of support everywhere - in Western Europe and North America (72%), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (65%), Arab States (64%), Latin America and Caribbean (63%), Asia and Pacific (63%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (61%).
  • Of the people that said climate change is a global emergency, 59% said that the world should do everything necessary and urgently in response. Only 10% percent of people thought the world is already doing enough.
  • Respondents were asked which policies governments should enact to address the climate emergency. Four climate policies emerged as the most popular globally:
  1. Conservation of forests and land (54% public support);
  2. Solar, wind and renewable power (53%);
  3. Climate-friendly farming techniques (52%); and
  4. Investing more in green businesses and jobs (50%)

The report is an invaluable source of information to guide programming and decision-making in museums in all countries.

UN75 survey

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, and to identify people’s priorities, UN75 was set out in 2020 as a global dialogue. More than 1.5 million people participated, in 195 countries. Among the key finding were the following:

  • Supporting basic services and countries hardest hit by COVID was identified as the main short-term priority.
  • Respondents in less developed countries and those living in conflict situations expressed greater levels of optimism about the future than others.
  • “Respondents in all regions identified climate change and environmental issues as the number one long-term global challenge”, with resounding calls for more environmental protection.

National surveys of attitudes

National surveys provide a granular picture of public attitudes. For example, in the UK, the RESIL-RISK project has drawn on the insights of social sciences research and environmental communications to draw up key messages that can help to connect public concern and attitudes with effective mitigation and adaptation action.

Using global and national surveys to inform museums’ activities

Public surveys can be taken to represent a public mandate for climate-related activities, representing both a public demand and a public interest. More local surveys undertaken in museums’ communities or towns can also be drawn upon as a basis for developing programmes and partnerships. Museums can make people aware of global and national survey results, and use these to kickstart discussions on people’s priorities regarding climate change and climate action.

The time is now

So, the time to accelerate climate education, awareness, participation and action is now: there is both the demand and the need, to pivot away from an unsustainable past to a sustainable future, as society re-emerges or reshapes in a post-COVID-19 context.

Further reading

See Climate Outreach’s guide, Theory of change: creating a social mandate for climate action (2020).

The ‘Reimagining Museums for Climate Action” concept

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action is a concept that we invite museums, their partners and stakeholders, to make use of.

We can think of ‘reimagining museums for climate action’ as being made up of a number of elements:

Reimagining museums: exploring museums in terms of twisting existing museums into new shapes, or creating entirely new forms of museum, to support climate action more effectively. There are no limits to this reimagining, except the limits of our imagination, and the extent to which we are willing to abandon self-limiting beliefs about what museums have to do or be. Reimagining museums is not only about buildings, but the purpose, practice and assumptions of all aspects of museum work, for example place, permanence, collecting and collections, people and practices. As a manifestation of cultural practices, reimagining museums involves a reimagining of the practices that create, value and maintain museums, in various forms.

For: museums as catalysts, tools, agents for people to make use of to address external realities. ‘For’ is intended to relate to a sense of purpose.

Climate action: activity that meaningfully addresses climate change. Climate action is not just talk, it is activity that concretely reduces greenhouse gases. It is deliberately ambiguous in terms of who takes what action, but it is unambiguous in terms of addressing climate change. Climate action is about supporting society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring museums reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. It is also about ensuring society, nature and museums can adapt to climate change wherever possible, to minimise the loss of lives and property. Climate action is usually considered as consisting of mitigation actions, that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or strengthen carbon sinks (such as forests, soil and oceans), and adaptation actions, that enable people and nature to adjust to new or projected climate conditions (nature can only adjust to new conditions, not projected ones).

‘Reimagining museums for climate action’ becomes a creative and imaginative challenge, to reform, repurpose and reinvent museums to contribute more effectively, and completely differently, to contemporary issues, of which climate change is taken as a particular example.

As outlined earlier, sustainability challenges are interlocked and interconnected, and in addressing one challenge – climate change – we also have to consider how those actions are undertaken fairly. That is why we have to consider climate action within the context of wider action for sustainable development, ensuring that we achieve a more harmonious balance of considerations of people, planet and prosperity.

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