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By Mary Archer on

More urgency needed in the energy transition

Climate change is the defining challenge of this century. Across the Science Museum Group we have put the issue at the heart of our work, from making the most of our opportunity to engage the millions of people who visit us with the science of climate change to achieving a rigorous net zero target by 2033.

We want to work with funders who are also on a journey to decarbonise and recently our Board of Trustees agreed to evolve our approach to assessing the commitment of prospective and current sponsors to curbing climate change.

In doing so we are responding to the latest science, including recent warnings from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the world needs to decarbonise much more rapidly than current policies will achieve to limit global warming to around 1.5 deg C, the goal set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The approach agreed by our Trustees will extend our use of the respected Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) to assess partners’ progress. Using publicly disclosed data, TPI assesses the progress that companies are making on the transition to a low-carbon economy, supporting efforts to mitigate climate change.

Since 2020, the Science Museum Group has used the TPI Management Quality index to evaluate current and future partners as part of our due diligence process, with a threshold set at Level 3.

We are now asking our partners, and prospective partners, to:

  • Achieve Level 4 on the TPI Management Quality index (TPI rates companies from 0 – 4*) by the end of this financial year
  • Achieve alignment with the Paris 1.5 degree pathway on TPI’s Carbon  Performance index by the end of the next financial year.

Sponsors in carbon intensive sectors have been informed of these new benchmarks as we continue to urge companies to show more leadership in speeding up the transition to low-carbon energy sources.

Some campaigners have urged us to rule out working with all companies involved in fossil fuel extraction, including current sponsors such as Shell, BP and Equinor who provide money for us to fulfil our mission through sponsorship. In all such partnerships, the Science Museum Group retains editorial control.

Given the enormous expertise and funds tied up in those energy companies, they need to play a much bigger role in urgent change to prevent a climate catastrophe. This potential explains the position taken by the Science Museum Group over the past decade that it would be counter-productive to rule out engaging with the entire sector.

Alongside other partners in the cultural and education sectors – as well as those in the responsible investor community such as Climate Action 100+ – we believe the right approach is to engage and challenge companies, governments and individuals to do more to make the global economy less carbon intensive. We need to see change, and in raising the bar through these new benchmarks we are sending a clear signal to those who want to work with us.

I have noted before that solutions begin with difficult conversations, among friends, in individual organisations and on the world stage. As we seek to engage the public on this most crucial issue, we recognise that some people would prefer to see us sever all links with companies from carbon intensive sectors and we respect that perspective.

I remain passionate in my belief that our museum group has an important role to play in bringing the science of climate change to life and exploring how science and innovation, which have created the problem, can also provide solutions that, alongside the rapid shift away from fossil fuels, are a genuine cause for hope.