As part of our ongoing work to combat climate change, the Aquarium has taken the necessary steps over the past six months to calculate our organization's carbon footprint, in partnership with Verdis Group. With a comprehensive set of data points in hand, we have identified areas of our operations that will need to evolve over time in order to lower the Aquarium's emissions to net-zero. By achieving net-zero emissions, the Aquarium will take a major step forward in our commitment to combat climate change and we hope to serve as an example for other businesses and organizations to lower their emissions!
The Importance of Net-Zero
Net-zero refers to effectively eliminating an individual's or business's greenhouse gas emissions. The National Aquarium is focused on its scope 1 and scope 2 emissions—like the fuel that is used on-site and the energy we purchase for our operations—as part of this initial goal. Indirect emissions—like those related to our waste, water and items we purchase—will also be carefully analyzed in a future study so that we can develop a plan for further reductions.
Net-zero is a more rigorous standard than "carbon neutral," a term that is often used when discussing emissions reduction. The emissions impact is measured based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the goal aligns with guidance from the Science Based Targets Initiative to obtain net-zero status, which offers strict rules on what can and cannot be counted toward reducing carbon footprints. By following this standard, we will limit our use of carbon offsets to 10% or less of our total emissions. The GGP prioritizes energy conservation and the use of renewable energy sources. While this is the more rigorous path to carbon reduction, we believe it’s the most impactful, science-based approach to this work.
From 2010 to 2019, the Aquarium reduced its emissions by 31%. This reduction was due in major part to operational equipment upgrades and a power purchase agreement. Approximately 40% of our total electricity use comes from renewable energy sources.
To further reduce our emissions to reach net-zero, the Aquarium will be focusing on additional energy conservation measures, including electrifying our infrastructure and vehicle fleet, increasing on- and off-site renewable energy sources and advocating for stronger policies and accountability for climate action at every level of government.
Beyond the work we are doing to eliminate emissions, the Aquarium continues to mitigate climate change impacts by planting trees, restoring wetlands and pushing for the reduction of single-use plastics. While important, cutting emissions is not enough. We will continue to protect our communities—both human and wildlife—from the negative impacts of climate change.
A Wave of Climate Action
Today, the National Aquarium joins 24 additional members of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership in making a commitment to cut emissions. We're excited to be part of this collective commitment, providing strong examples of climate change action for millions of aquarium guests nationwide.
Aquariums are not the only organizations getting in on the carbon emissions action. In recent weeks, legislation supported by the National Aquarium was passed by the Baltimore City Council and Maryland General Assembly to reduce emissions, ultimately achieving net-zero emissions by 2045. These new laws will accelerate the use of clean energy throughout city government operations and the state, making Maryland a leader in the effort to combat climate change.
The National Aquarium will continue to advocate for ambitious climate action and the prioritization of communities most impacted by climate change and pollution. Stronger climate action is especially needed at the federal level, including additional investments in clean energy and ocean and coastal resilience.
How You Can Help
Join the Aquarium in taking daily action to combat climate change. Though climate change is a daunting, large-scale issue, our collective action at the individual level can have a tremendous positive impact. Here are some examples of climate action you can take:
Learn about climate change and share that information with family, friends and coworkers.
By sharing information with our peers, we can help break down the fears and concerns around climate change and make space for collaboration on solutions.
Look for creative ways you can save energy!
Whether it's carpooling or green commuting, switching to LED bulbs, choosing energy-efficient appliances or even looking into renewable energy sources for your home, reducing the amount of energy you consume is a highly impactful way to take climate action.
Practice the "refuse, reduce, recycle" method.
Everything we consume—from clothing to coffee—has a carbon footprint. Taking a regenerative and sustainable look at everything we consume every day can help us all find smart reductions in our footprint.
Advocate for strong climate policies and leaders who are committed to addressing climate change.
At every level of government, we need better climate policies to ensure that our communities can help address and combat the challenges we’re already facing as a result of climate change.