Campaigners continue to attack Science Museum’s Shell sponsorship deal

Campaigners have questioned how the Science Museum can justify having Shell UK as a sponsor of their climate change exhibition Our Future Planet.

Culture Unstained are a campaign organisation who have been trying to put an end to fossil fuel companies sponsoring culture in the UK.

Last week Channel 4 reported information uncovered by Culture Unstained which claimed the sponsorship agreement contained a gagging order on the museum’s staff instructing them to take care saying anything about Shell that could damage the company’s reputation.

This revelation had received widespread criticism with activist Greta Thunberg accusing the museum of killing its own reputation.

Culture Unstained co-director Jess Worth said: “How on earth can the Science Museum think it is appropriate to work with a company like Shell which has been proven to suppress the future of climate change?

“Science Museum is in the lead in terms of having partnerships with three oil companies and publicly championing them in a way that feels so out of step with climate change.

“I have been involved in our campaign to end fossil fuel sponsorship for nine years and this is definitely the most high profile it has been and gained the most unanimous public support.”

The Our Future Planet exhibition showcases technological solutions to reduce carbon emissions using CO2 capture and storage which Shell support.

This technology is aimed at capturing carbon dioxide from human activity including burning fossil fuels before it enters the atmosphere. 

Worth said: “Its all part of Shell’s smokescreen.

“Yes they are taking climate change seriously but when you drill down into the numbers, they are saying they are relying on this future unproven technology to suck all of our emissions out to the atmosphere so we can keep on extracting oil and gas.”

Another campaign organisation led by students UKSCN London were removed in from the museum by police in June for protesting against the Shell sponsorship.

UKSCN London campaigner Ines McCairley said: “We all remember going to the Science Museum as children and looking at the exhibitions in wonder.

“For us the museum represented the future and that future is put in peril by Shell.”

A theatre campaigning group BP or not BP? started a petition last May requesting that the Science Museum drops Shell as a sponsor.

The petition has so far received over 50,000 signatures including actress Thandie Newton. 

Sarah Horne, from the group who started the anti-Shell petition, said: “With this sponsorship deal, the Science Museum is propping up the reputation of this reckless company, and actively defending Shell from criticism.

“Whether it’s silencing its own staff or threatening teenagers with arrest, the Science Museum seems more committed to defending the reputation of its dirty sponsor than communicating the truth about climate change.”

Science Museum acting director and chief executive Jonathan Newby said: “Climate change is the most urgent threat facing humanity and we’re committed to engaging people in this vital issue, through exhibitions such as Our Future Planet, and climate events such as the talk involving Tony Blair and John Kerry we hosted recently.

“Across the world, we need to see a rapid transition to a low carbon economy and our own museums are committed to net zero by 2033.

“Energy companies need to play a big part in that change and we regard the blanket approach demanded by some campaigners of severing all relationships with energy companies as unproductive.”

On the specific claim made by Channel 4 and Culture Unstained, Newby added: “At all times the Science Museum retains editorial control of the content within our exhibitions and galleries.

“We entirely reject the unsubstantiated claim that our curators were in any way inhibited in carrying out their vital role in an expert, independent and thorough manner.”

A Shell spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “We fully respect the museum’s independence. 

“That is why the exhibition on CO2 capture is important and that is why we supported it.

“Debate and discussion among all who see it, are essential.”

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