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The Victoria and Albert Museum’s director defended funding from fossil fuel companies.

Benjamin Sutton
Sep 6, 2019 4:19PM, via The Art Newspaper

Victoria and Albert Museum director Tristram Hunt. Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images.

The Victoria and Albert Museum director said he sees no problem having relationships with companies trading in fossil fuels. Speaking at the Art Business Conference in London on Wednesday, Tristram Hunt said companies like BP “are thinking very carefully about a zero-carbon future that we, as institutions, as part of society, should have that relationship,” according to a report in The Art Newspaper.

Hunt’s declaration comes amid high-profile campaigns demanding the British Museum and the U.K.’s National Gallery end their sponsorship agreements with oil giant BP, and the Tate museums recent declaration of a “climate emergency.” Tate and BP ended their decades-long sponsorship agreement in 2016. Hunt’s statements reflect a belief that the same companies that have contributed to and profited from the exploiting and burning of oil and gas will be leaders in the fight against climate change.

Asked if he would accept financial support from a company like BP, Hunt said:

I think that the pre-history of fossil fuel companies in muddying the science about climate change, in lobbying, in their political acts, have been pretty criminal and they will be judged on that. But, I also think they will be part of the solution to dealing with climate change and they are engaged with it. It’s their technological reach, it is their facilities that will also be part of the solution and I think they’re getting there.

Hunt’s argument resonates with similar comments recently made by the director of the Science Museum Group, Ian Blatchford, who took issue with Tate’s “climate emergency” declaration earlier this summer, dismissing it as “more statement than substance” in a message to his staff. According to the Financial Times, Blatchford added that major energy companies dealing with gas and oil “have the capital, geography, people, and logistics to find the solutions [to climate change] and demonising them is seriously unproductive.”

Tate’s “climate emergency” declaration came two and a half months after the British Parliament made a similar declaration in response to mass protests organized by the group Extinction Rebellion. In July, Britain’s national weather agency revealed that the U.K.’s 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2002. In response, University of St. Andrews earth and environmental sciences professor Michael Byrne said: “The science of climate change is now clear. The U.K. government must ramp up preparations and ensure that our infrastructure and citizens are prepared for what is to come.”

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Benjamin Sutton