London museum under fire over climate exhibit sponsored by Shell

"Our Future Planet", a display focusing on carbon capture by London's Science Museum, lists Shell as one of its main sponsors. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - London's Science Museum came under fire on Friday (April 16) for having oil and gas major Royal Dutch Shell as a sponsor of an upcoming exhibition on climate change, a move described by environmental groups as "out-of-step".

The British museum is set to reopen after coronavirus lockdowns in May with "Our Future Planet", a display focusing on carbon capture - the process by which planet-warming gases are sucked out of the atmosphere and stored below ground.

The exhibition, which comes as Britain prepares to host a major UN climate summit in November, lists Shell as one of its main sponsors - drawing the ire of green activists.

"It beggars belief that this iconic British institution has freely chosen to link up with Shell... at such a crucial time," Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, said in a statement.

Environmental group Scientists for Global Responsibility said the move was "irresponsible", while Culture Unstained, a group campaigning to end fossil fuel sponsorship of culture, accused the museum of aiding "greenwashing" efforts.

Ian Blatchford, chief executive of the Science Museum Group, said the museum was transparent about its relationship with energy companies and retained editorial control in all such partnerships.

"Our Future Planet looks at both the cutting-edge technologies and nature-based solutions being developed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," he said.

"(The exhibition) makes clear that, alongside reducing carbon emissions, carbon capture and storage can be one contribution in the fight against climate change."

Shell said in a statement its relationship with the museum was based on shared interests to promote engagement in science, adding that it aimed to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.

"Our priority is to avoid emissions, where that is not currently possible, to reduce emissions and, only then, turn to mitigation of emissions, for example through the use of carbon capture and storage technology," a spokeswoman said via email.

Carbon capture technologies are seen as a key component in the fight against global warming, with the Britain's Climate Change Committee describing their development as a "necessity" for the country to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Yet, critics say underground storage space for captured emissions is limited and focusing on such technologies risks slowing down the transition to green energy sources.

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