Science museum

Science museum ‘must impose conditions’ on fossil fuel sponsors | Museums

Sir David King, one of the UK’s leading scientific figures, has intervened in the dispute over fossil fuel sponsorship at the Science Museum, calling on the institution to end any deals with big oil companies unless the companies do not meet strict environmental criteria.

The UK’s former chief science adviser says fossil fuel companies would have to prove they were seriously considering winding down their oil and gas operations before they are awarded big deals with prestigious scientific institutions .

“You need to define your terms before giving them credit to the Science Museum,” King said. “One of those conditions should be a commitment to no longer invest in the discovery of oil and to no longer invest in [oil and gas] infrastructure – it’s a relatively simple thing and one that would have a very significant impact.

King’s comments will add pressure on the Science Museum, which has faced multiple resignations and mounting protests over its relationship with Shell and a recently announced deal with renewable energy company Adani Green Energy, which is part of of the Adani group, which holds large stakes in coal.

Last month, the Guardian revealed how two scientists refused to have their work featured by the museum, and dozens more gave their support days later.

Earlier this month, indigenous leaders on the front lines of the climate crisis called on the museum to cancel its deal with Adani Green Energy due to the destructive impact of coal exploration by the Adani Group.

King’s intervention came as the row between scientists boycotting the museum and senior management escalated. On Wednesday, the group of academics and public figures supporting the boycott wrote to the museum to criticize its response to their concerns and reiterate their demands.

The letter concluded: “We hope you are now willing to engage with your critics in a genuine and meaningful way; not just scientists, but indigenous communities and young people who raised deep-seated concerns and were dismissed.

King said he would not personally join the museum boycott because the institution was “too important to our research and outreach agenda in the UK”.

But he said that although boycotts and divestment campaigns are often a “blunt tool”, they serve an important function in the fight against climate breakdown.

“If this type of action pushes them to change, I think it is worth it … the bottom line is that the focus on oil and gas companies is absolutely right and I support the decision to divest from the companies. oil and gas.”

A spokesperson for the Science Museum defended its position, saying it had reached “millions with the sponsorship it receives”.

They said engaging people in humanity’s greatest challenge – tackling devastating climate change – was a top priority, adding: “Energy companies involved in fossil fuels are causing climate change, but they also have the skills, the money and the geographic reach to play an important role in some of the solutions.

“Where a company shows a willingness to change, our directors believe it is worthwhile to continue to engage, while urging those companies to show more leadership in accelerating the shift to renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. .”

Sir Ian Blatchford, chief executive of the Science Museum, previously said: “Adani Green Energy already has one of the largest renewable energy portfolios in the world and plans to invest $20 billion in clean energy over the next few years. next 10 years.”

But King said that by continuing to partner with fossil fuel companies on current terms, the Science Museum risked lending credence to their extraction plans which, as it stands, would increase emissions with consequences. devastating for the climate.

“We need to wake up these companies, which have a lot of expertise, where the real opportunities of the future lie and, if these campaigns contribute to that, I support them.”