Organisers of the school strike movement, in which tens of thousands of young people have taken to the streets to demand urgent climate action, are calling for a boycott of an exhibition at the Science Museum sponsored by Shell.

The group described the museum’s decision to have the fossil fuel company as a sponsor of its Our Future Planet exhibition in London as “appalling” and called for the museum to cancel the deal or face a widespread boycott.

“The fact that Shell, a company with a vested interest in the continued use of fossil fuels, is financially supporting an exhibition about climate change solutions is appalling,” the UK Student Climate Network said in an open letter, signed by several environmental groups and climate scientists. “We condemn the Science Museum’s decision to accept this sponsorship and provide Shell with an opportunity for brazen green-washing.”

The threat of a boycott came amid growing pressure on cultural institutions to cut their ties to fossil fuel corporations. In the past few years, many museums and galleries have ended their links with big oil, and campaigners said the Science Museum risked huge reputational damage unless it changed course.

Anya Nanning Ramamurthy, from the UKSCN, said no museum or cultural institutions should be accepting money from fossil fuel companies – especially for an exhibition on climate change and climate solutions.

She added: “We are angry to see the Science Museum displaying materials from the youth strikes in an exhibition sponsored by Shell, which goes directly against the values of the movement that young people have built over the past two years.”

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Shell’s sponsorship of the exhibition has already been criticised by climate scientists and environmentalists. Dr Emma Sayer, a scientist from Lancaster University who worked on the exhibition, expressed her concerns on Monday.

Sayer said: “I was very disappointed to hear that the exhibition was sponsored by Shell and I’m unhappy that my name as a contributor is now linked to that sponsorship.” She added: “I think the museum directors were perhaps a little naive about the strength of feeling around such sponsorship.”

The Science Museum defended the sponsorship deal. Sir Ian Blatchford, its director and chief executive, said: “Climate change is the defining issue of this century and when we reopen the Science Museum, visitors can look forward to lots of public programming engaging with this issue, including a new exhibition Our Future Planet.

“My message to anyone who has misgivings about any aspect of this exhibition is come and visit this timely show and make up your own mind.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Shell said it had a longstanding relationship with the Science Museum “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”.

The spokesperson added Shell had a target to become a net zero emissions energy business by 2050, adding: “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.”



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