Fossil Fuel Giant Shell to Sponsor Exhibition at Manchester Science Festival

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They’re at it again.

Despite campaigners’ repeated calls for publicly-funded museums to drop controversial commercial deals, the Museum of Science and Industry has agreed a deal with fossil fuel giant Shell to sponsor a new exhibition, DeSmog UK can reveal.

The exhibition, Electricity: The Spark of Life will run for six months, as part of the Manchester Science Festival. It will be sponsored by Shell UK, North West Electricity, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Campaigners said they were “hugely disappointed” at the museum’s decision.


To see details of more fossil fuel company sponsorships, check out our Greenwash Database


Shell’s sponsorship of the exhibition is controversial, but not unusual. The company has corporate partnerships with the Science Museum, Southbank Centre and National Theatre.

Email correspondence previously published by DeSmog UK showed how cosy these partnerships can be, with Shell using its sponsorship of the National Gallery to obtain private tours and ticketing privileges.

Documents released earlier this year analysed by DeSmog UK show that Shell has known about the dangers of climate change for decades. Shell recently announced it would increase its investment in clean energy technology, from $1 billion a year to $1-2 billion. But that works out as less than 6 percent of its $25-30 billion total annual investment.

In July, a group of leading climate scientists, academics and environmentalists lodged a formal complaint with the Science Museum over their partnerships with big oil companies. They accused the museum of “undermining its integrity as a scientific institution” by partnering with BP, Shell and Statoil despite the companies’ contribution to climate change.  

Carbon Co-op, an NGO that was partnered with the Manchester Science Festival, have today announced their withdrawal from the event.

Jonathan Atkinson Carbon Co-op said: “Our core mission is around developing ways to address the causes and effects of climate change. It is hugely disappointing that Manchester Science Museum have chosen to align themselves with a company that holds significant carbon reserves, with a historic position in denying climate change and a responsibility for tackling the issue.”

The broadcaster Chris Packham was a signatory to a letter organised by Carbon Coop opposing the sponsorship. He said in a statement:

As the world swelters and wildlife struggles in this unprecedented heatwave, MSI has decided to partner with Shell, one of the corporations responsible for fuelling climate change. A museum dedicated to science education should not be helping promote any company that is actively exacerbating this planetary emergency until they show a serious proactive drive to switch to renewables. And thus far this is not happening.”

A spokesperson for Shell said:

Shell has long recognised both the importance of climate change and the critical role energy must play in enabling a decent quality of life for people across the world. The big challenge, for society and for a company like Shell, is how to provide much more energy while at the same time significantly reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. 

Sponsorship of this exhibition is part of the long standing relationship between Shell and the Science Museum, based on shared interests such as the need to inspire young people about science.”

A spokesperson for the Museum of Science and Industry told DeSmog UK:

We work with a range of funders to support our mission to ignite curiosity in science. At a time when Government funding is declining in real terms, we are only in a position to be able to do this because of the strong support of a range of individual philanthropists, corporate partners and charitable trusts. We apply the same thought and consideration to all prospective funders, whether corporate, charitable trusts or individual philanthropists, and any partner that wishes to work with us must accept that editorial control sits firmly with the museum.”

Image: Joenomias/Pixabay CC0. Updated 09/08/2018: A line about the#ShellKnew documents and quotes from Shell and the Museum of Science and Industry were added.

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