Climate activists say they’ll call for people to boycott a new exhibition at London’s Science Museum if the oil company Shell isn’t dropped as a major sponsor.
The UK Student Climate Network has already sent an open letter to the museum in protest but says it’s had no response.
It’s two weeks until the exhibition on carbon capture technology is due to open.
A contributor who has now partly withdrawn her involvement says she was disappointed and embarrassed to learn about the sponsorship after already agreeing to take part.
Dr Emma Sayer, reader in Ecosystem Ecology at the University of Lancaster, contributed to a display on capturing carbon in woodlands.
She said: “My contribution to the exhibition is about soil carbon storage. I was really excited. The Science Museum is a great place and it was fantastic to be involved.
“But this sponsorship issue has created a big conundrum for me because on the one hand, I want to support the exhibition, and the key messages of the exhibition, but then on the other hand, I don’t want to be associated with sponsorship by big oil companies.”
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Dr Sayer added: “We need to be reducing our fossil fuel use and we need to be doing it urgently. And that’s really why it creates such an issue for me.
“I’m very aware of the need to mitigate the impacts of climate change and I think we should be transitioning away from fossil fuels as fast as possible and that creates a conflict with that kind of sponsorship.”
Dr Sayer has now withdrawn consent to use video footage for a film in the exhibition but because she still supports the message of the exhibition is leaving her display there.
Anya Nanning Ramamurthy of the UK Student Climate Network says if Shell is not dropped they will be calling for a boycott of the exhibition which begins on 19 May.
She said: “Surely the Museum can put on an exhibition like this without Shell’s money. Fossil fuel companies shouldn’t be sponsoring exhibitions around solutions to climate change.”
Roger Highfield, Science Director of the Science Museum Group, defended the sponsorship involvement of Shell.
He said: “We keep complete editorial control of our exhibitions, no matter the sponsor. When you look at the thinking behind this exhibition, our number one objective was to engage the public, get them talking about whether carbon capture has a role to play.
It’s a really important conversation because the future of the planet is at stake.”
A Shell spokesperson said: “Shell and the Science Museum have a longstanding relationship, based on a shared interest in promoting engagement in science – which will be a key enabler in addressing the challenge to provide more and cleaner energy solutions.
“At Shell our target is to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society. As Shell works with our customers to identify the best paths to decarbonisation, we seek to avoid, reduce and only then mitigate any remaining emissions.
“Developing carbon capture and storage and using natural sinks are two of a range of ways of decarbonising energy.”
The Exhibition has been put together during lockdown and when the Science Museum re-opens it’s thought to be the UK’s first on carbon capture technology.
The centre-piece is a life-size mechanical tree which was designed in America and sent to London from Arizona State University.
It works in the same way as a natural tree to capture carbon using man-made processes.
It is the first full-scale prototype of this kind of technology. The Museum says in a year a cluster of 12 mechanical trees can absorb the amount of carbon dioxide produced by 44 average UK homes.
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