Science Museum Group to focus on sustainability in 2021 - Museums Association

Science Museum Group to focus on sustainability in 2021

Range of programmes unveiled in run-up to next year's UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow
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Simon Stephens
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Artwork rendering of the entrance to the planned Our Future Planet exhibition
Artwork rendering of the entrance to the planned Our Future Planet exhibition © Science Museum Group

The Science Museum Group's (SMG) public programme will focus on sustainability and climate change next year, it announced this week.

There will be a year-long event series, Climate Talks, which will launch in January and run until the start of Cop26, the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in November 2021 in Glasgow.

Speakers at the events, which will be streamed online, will include Malawian inventor and author William Kamkwamba, British writer and environmental activist George Monbiot, and Danish politician Kira Peter-Hansen.

The Science Museum in London will hold an exhibition on carbon capture and storage that will explore the latest techniques being developed for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change. Our Future Planet opens on 1 April 2021.

Also in London, the IMAX: The Ronson Theatre opens after a 10-month refurbishment with the UK premiere of BBC Earth’s Antarctica 3D.

There will be a climate-themed Manchester Science Festival from 12 to 21 February 2021. Musician and climate campaigner Brian Eno, journalists Samira Ahmed and Gaia Vince, and physicist Helen Czerski will lead a range of debates. The festival is produced by the Science and Industry Museum, which is part of the SMG.

SMG director Ian Blatchford said: “We’ll be inviting our audiences to challenge themselves and ignite their curiosity as we explore how science can help humanity take on the existential threat of global heating.”

Blatchford also said SMG is working hard to reduce the impact the organisation is having on the environment, including completing the construction of a new building as its National Collections Centre at Wroughton, Wiltshire, which he said will be its most sustainable building.

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“We have come a long way in the past 10 years but need to go further and faster in the next 10 years,” Blatchford said.

Alongside museum storage facilities, this 545-acre Wroughton site is made up of large open areas, native woodlands and one of the UK’s largest solar farms.

Blatchford also said that SMG would continue to take sponsorship from energy companies such as BP, Shell and Equinor, arguing that they had a big role to play in addressing climate change.

Blatchford, writing on the SMG website in August 2019 about sustainability, said: “Through research and technological innovation in areas such as carbon capture, fuel efficiency and alternative energy, energy companies have a major role to play, and we must continue to challenge them to show more leadership to deliver on this potential.

“I am sceptical about the argument that such sponsorships are greenwashing,” he continued. “It would be much easier for companies to seek a quiet life by not sponsoring high profile institutions, because working with us exposes them to exceptional scrutiny.”

More than five million people visit SMG's five sites each year. The sites are: Science Museum in London; National Railway Museum in York; Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and Locomotion in Shildon.

SMG said that since 2011-12 it has cut direct carbon emissions by 69% from its operations, despite increasing floor area by 24% as a result of museums joining the group. It purchases all its electricity from renewable sources, except the Blythe House object store, which will close shortly.

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