Carbon Coop withdraws involvement in Manchester Science Festival Exhibition in protest at Shell sponsorship

by Blog

Carbon Co-op have today announced their withdrawal from the 2018 Manchester Science Festival after the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) announced that part of the festival would be sponsored by the oil company Shell. The community retrofit and renewables firm was a partner in MSI’s exhibition on Electricity, which will be part of the festival. Carbon Co-op are “hugely disappointed” that a public science event is being used to promote an oil company, and so are withdrawing their support.

At the same time, a public letter opposing the sponsorship has been signed by a large group of prominent scientists, artists, campaigners, politicians, local organisations and representatives of communities affected by Shell’s activities. Many had already approached the museum privately through a joint letter on the 9th of July, asking them not to partner with an oil company. But in a response today the museum refused their request, and did not acknowledge or engage with any of their concerns.

The summer of 2018 has already drawn unprecedented levels of attention to the growing effects of climate change, with record breaking temperatures and serious moorland fires in the hills surrounding Manchester.

Last month, almost 50 leading climate scientists, naturalists, and representatives of affected communities submitted a formal complaint to the Science Museum Group (of which MSI is a member), accusing it of’undermining its integrity as a scientific institution’ by partnering with BP, Shell and Statoil despite their continued contribution to climate change. The complaint presented new evidence showing the museum knew about sponsors’ ties to corruption and climate disinformation but signed deals regardless. [1] At the same time, research and campaign group Culture Unstained launched a website detailing multiple reasons why Shell and other oil companies are inappropriate sponsors for museums. [2]

Carbon Coop’s move comes in the wake of other high-profile withdrawals from major cultural events sponsored by unethical companies. In March, BAe Systems was forced to pull out as sponsor of the Great Exhibition of the North following an outcry from musicians and presenters including Nadine Shah and Lauren Laverne. [3] And just last week, over 40 artists removed their work from the Design Museum’s Hope to Nope exhibition after the museum hosted an arms trade event. [4]

Jonathan Atkinson from 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.”

Naturalist and Broadcaster Chris Packham has signed the letter in support of our campaign stating that: ‘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.’

The letter text and full list of signatories can be seen here:

To: Sally MacDonald, Museum Director, Museum of Science and Industry CC: Kim Gowland, Head of Marketing and Communications; Jan Hicks, Lead Curator and Archives Manager

Dear Sally,

We are writing as a group of prominent cultural and environmental organisations, concerned citizens, academics and researchers, to raise our deep dismay at the news that Shell is being announced as lead sponsor for Museum of Science and Industry’s (MSI) forthcoming Electricity Exhibition.

There are a number of reasons why we believe reputable cultural institutions should not enter into sponsorship deals of this nature:

Most obviously, continued fossil fuel exploration and extraction is at odds with preventing climate change. With at least three times more fossil fuels in existing reserves than can be burned if the worst consequences of climate change are to be avoided, we believe the companies that hold these reserves and participate in their continued exploration and extraction should have no role in the future energy system. As the world suffers a record-breaking and deadly global heatwave, the need to transition away from fossil fuels could not be clearer.

Secondly, the oil industry has a history of funding groups that have sought to discredit climate science and lobbying against concerted multilateral action on climate change. They have made huge profits from fossil fuel extraction whilst their own research demonstrated the harm of these activities.

We believe MSI has an important role in inspiring children and young people to become the climate scientists and energy system engineers of the future. Fossil fuel companies have no role in that future. The association of respected cultural institutions such as MSI with fossil fuel firms provides such companies with a sheen of legitimacy to continue acting in a way that damages the health of citizens and endangers the environment on a global scale.

Whilst understanding the need for institutions to raise much-needed income via sponsorship, we believe there must be ethical limits and that taking money from oil companies today is comparable to taking money from tobacco firms twenty years ago.

For these reasons, we ask that MSI reject Shell’s sponsorship of the Electricity exhibition and put pressure on the Science Museum Group as a whole to end their relationship with all fossil fuel companies.

We have previously written privately in the hope that we could avert any proposed deal before it was made public. Sadly, you have chosen to press on with this and though we regret having to engage in a public campaign on this issue, we will now make our case loudly and persistently.

Yours sincerely,

Laura Williams, Carbon Coop Jonathan Atkinson, Carbon Co-op Stephen Hall, President of Greater Manchester Association of Trade Union Councils Stuart Bowman, Fossil Free Greater Manchester Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Chris Packham, Naturalist and Broadcaster Jonathon Porritt, environmentalist and writer Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, Co-Leaders of the Green Party of England and Wales Emeritus Professor Keith Barnham, Distinguished Research Fellow, Imperial College London, and author of The Burning Answer: a User’s Guide to the Solar Revolution Zita Holbourne, PCS Union Vice-President, Artists Union England joint national Chair, BARAC national chair, artist and curator Simon Bullock, Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace Professor Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus; Geophysical & Climate Hazards, University College London Lazarus Tamana, MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People) European Coordinator Benny Wenda, West Papua independence leader and Chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua Mark Burton, Steady State Manchester Judy Paskell (Chair, Frack Free Greater Manchester and on behalf of Greater Manchester Campaign against Climate Change) Clara Paillard, President of PCS union Culture Group Professor Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, University of Surrey Dr Phil Webber, Scientists for Global Responsibility & YES Energy Solutions cic Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, FAcSS, FAPS, University of Bristol Dr Jeremy I Skipper, Associate Professor, University College London Judith Emanuel Dr Geoffrey Supran, Post Doctoral Fellow, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dr Chris Brierley, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, University College London. Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics Andrew Simms, Co-director, New Weather Institute Professor Megan J. Povey, Professor of Food Physics, University of Leeds Kooj Chuhan, Director, Metaceptive Projects and Curator, ‘Footprint Modulation’ exhibition Aidan Jolly, Co-Director of Virtual Migrants (artist collective) Ryan Bellinson, Realising Just Cities, University of Sheffield Bertie Russell, University of Sheffield Dr. Frances Mortimer, Centre for Sustainable Healthcare Dr. Deirdre Duff, Medact Dr. Gavin Grindon, Lecturer in Curating, University of Essex Dominic Latham, Director, Minute Works Jimmy Edmondson, Director, Minute Works James Brady, Artist & Curator, Director of Gaia Project Jess Worth, Co-director, Culture Unstained Bryony Moore, Stitched Up Mel Evans, Author, Artwash: Big Oil & the Arts Liberate Tate, Artist Collective la zad Alliance Manchester Prof. Richard Povall, art.earth / Ulsan National Institute of Science & Technology (South Korea) Clive Adams, Founding Director, CCANW (Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World) James O’Nions, Global Justice Now Danny Chivers, Art Not Oil Coalition Sally Moss, Writer & Editor Chris Fremantle, Researcher & Producer, Senior Research Fellow, Robert Gordon University Aberdeen Dr. Neil Coombs, Artist, Lecturer and Publisher. Dark Windows Press Dan Hett, Artist Carlos Alonso-Gabizon, Carbon Co-op Marianne Heaslip, URBED Hannah Knox, University College London Russell Warfield, BP or not BP? The #NopeToArms Collective Dr Ann Kolodziejski, University of Bolton Dr Matt Folley, Wave energy expert, Queen’s University Belfast Jane Lawson, artist, Manchester Sevie Tsampalla, PhD researcher, LJMU, curator Dr Sarah Mander, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Dr Felicity Mellor, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, Imperial College London Maurice Carlin, artist, Salford Dave Griffiths, Artist & Senior Lecturer, Manchester School of Art Martha Lineham, Researcher & Lecturer, Manchester School of Art Dr Ali Abbas & Catherine Thomson, Joint co-ordinators, Manchester Friends of the Earth Hilary Jack, artist, Salford Jane Turner, Co-Director, Ethical Consumer Dr Charlie Spring, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

Image: Joenomias/Pixabay CC0