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National Museums NI joins coalition for biodiversity

National Museums NI has become the first local organisation to join hundreds worldwide in an international campaign to raise awareness on the immediate need to protect our natural environment as levels of interference with nature become unsustainable.

The Global Coalition #UnitedforBiodiversity was launched on World Wildlife Day 2020 by EU Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, and calls on all world science and natural history museums, botanic gardens, zoos, aquariums, research centres and national parks to raise their voices in support of nature – a call National Museums NI has now answered by signing the Coalition pledge.

It adds its voice to eleven other organisations from across the UK including Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Natural History Museum London and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, calling on all world leaders to agree on urgent measures to tackle global biodiversity loss at the crucial Conference of the Parties (CoP) 15 meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2021.

At a time when one million species are at risk of extinction globally, National Museum NI’s pledge is significant as Northern Ireland continues to battle with its own biodiversity loss. Recent analysis revealed that the UK languishes at the bottom of the table for the amount of nature it has left*.

Northern Ireland was revealed as the 12th worst performing country for biodiversity loss out of 240 countries**. 11% of all wildlife in Northern Ireland is threatened by extinction and 80% of its curlew population has been lost since 1987, with Fermanagh and the Antrim Hills the last remaining hotspots***.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI said: “Our role is to encourage people to consider diverse perspectives. We are opening minds to new ideas, promoting respect and empathy and championing sustainable development and innovation.

“As a knowledge-based organisation we are uniquely placed to perform an educational role and stimulate conversations about our natural world and biodiversity. By using our vast natural science collections, we can support the understanding of others to promote responsible and ethical action.”

National Museums NI has taken a leading role in its pledge to protect local and world biodiversity, and believes it can set an example to other organisations who can promote positive change. In 2020, a number of environmental commitments were made by National Museums NI to manage and develop its estate more sustainably. Many of these focus on reducing the impact of its activities on Northern Ireland’s biodiversity and providing the public with greater educational opportunities.

National Museums NI is the custodian of significant natural sciences collections and natural habitats, as well as being the home of Northern Ireland’s environmental record centre which for decades have been used to underpin research by National Museums’ own specialists and that of other researchers such as academics and biodiversity workers.

It often also plays a role in international environmental matters and was recently tasked by the Canadian Coast Guard to help as it stemmed an oil leak from a shipwreck, the ship having originated in Belfast. Furthermore, its two outdoor sites, Ulster American Folk Park and Ulster Folk Museum provide safe homes for various flora and fauna to thrive.

Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial at National Museums NI said: “Our new commitment to the Global Coalition #UnitedForBiodiversity aligns perfectly with our organisational outcomes framework in which we pledge that our work will contribute to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation.

“Our Natural Sciences collections provide important data to help advance our understanding of our environment, whilst our natural sites and established engagement programmes strengthen our ability to make a valuable contribution in how we support research and the development of policy.”

For more information about the work of National Museums NI visit nmni.com and to view the pledge, visit ec.europa.eu.