Time to act over climate change is now, declares Bristol’s We The Curious science centre

June 7, 2019

Bristol’s We The Curious has become the first science centre in the world to declare a climate emergency and pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Along with Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol, it is one of the first organisations in the city to make such a public declaration. 

The pledge is in line with Bristol’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030. We The Curious said the aim of its declaration was to inspire organisations and individuals to take action over climate change and alter their behaviour.

As part of its commitment, We The Curious will not be running the Millennium Square outdoor ice rink this winter, and is instead looking at alternative offers and activities that are more energy efficient.

We The Curious said that while there was no single definition of what declaring a climate emergency is, the uniting factor is that it is a call to action and a declaration of intent to dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Bristol became the first city to declare one recently and the UK Parliament is the first in the world to declare a climate emergency motion.

We The Curious already uses electricity from renewable sources (including generating energy from the rooftop photovoltaic array), but as part of the declaration it will continue to reduce energy use across the site and will remove all gas supplies by 2030.

Through a combination of technological and behavioural measures energy consumption across site has already been reduced by 28% in the past nine years.

The decision to declare a climate emergency represents the next step in a sustainability journey that the centre has been on since 2010.

With beehives and Bristol’s largest photovoltaic array on the roof, a phase change tank that ‘recycles’ and redistributes heating and cooling in the building, pollinator hotels on the city centre site and public art installations that highlight climate disruption, embedding sustainable practices is a commitment the charity takes seriously.

We The Curious said it was committed to becoming one of the most sustainable science centres in the world, an ambition it published in its Manifesto for Change which it launched in 2017. The focus of its work has since been on three main areas of activity – sustainable practice, sustainability engagement and sustainability partnerships, or ‘do, talk, share’.

As an educational charity and venue, it said it has a vital part to play in engaging the public in the importance of sustainable futures and the need for urgent action.

As part of this, the current wave of programming throughout the venue for the year is themed around ‘climate action’, with hands-on activities, workshops and events, exploring the positive changes people can make together. Since April, more than 700 visitors have pledged their own ‘promise to the planet’ as part of the Change Makers activity.

We The Curious Head of Sustainable Futures Chris Dunford said: “Climate change is a serious threat to our society and so we need to take positive action now. As an educational charity, we recognise that we have a responsibility to operate as sustainably as we can, and we have an important role in empowering and supporting our visitors to explore how they can make a difference themselves – providing a bridge between the science and the public.

“Working in collaboration with other organisations through the Bristol Green Capital Partnership we can hopefully engage and inspire people to take action and make a difference.”

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees applauded the move as “inspiring”.

He added: “As individuals and institutions we are interdependent and utilising the potential of our collective power, outlined in the One City Plan, is crucial to address global challenges. Quite simply, a carbon neutral city requires every organisation to become carbon neutral.

“I’d like to invite all organisations across Bristol to join us in a city-wide declaration – demonstrating our collective commitment not only to the communities we represent but also to government, calling on ministers to do their part nationally.”

Dr Jo House, Cabot Institute for the Environment, University of Bristol and IPCC lead author, said that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were now higher than they have been for 3m years.

“In Bristol, the UK and globally we are already feeling the impacts of the one degree rise in temperature. The recent floods and heat waves will become more frequent and more intense unless we take action now,” Dr House said.

“There are already many ways to reduce emissions that we can implement now; some are easy, some are more challenging but all are achievable. It is fantastic to see organisations like We The Curious responding, and committing to real action.”

UWE Bristol Assistant Vice Chancellor and Professor of Environmental Science James Longhurst congratulated We the Curious for recognising the state of the climate emergency and for taking action to address its own contribution to carbon emissions.

“Equally important is the hugely valuable science communication role that they play. Through their programming on climate change tens of thousands of visitors will hear the call for urgent action and be encouraged to act. I look forward to the rest of the science centre community following the impressive lead of We the Curious,” he said.


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