Thursday 9 January 2020 6:13 am

DEBATE: Was the British Museum right to bypass BP as a sponsor for its Arctic exhibition?

Harry Phibbs
Harry Phibbs is a journalist at Conservative Home.

Was the British Museum right to bypass BP as a sponsor for its Arctic exhibition?

Marine Tanguy, chief executive of MTArt Agency, says YES.

I completely understand why the British Museum would be embarrassed to take the sponsorship of BP while discussing the Arctic in its next exhibition, one of the regions most affected by climate change.

The transition to ethical funding may be painful financially, but as a sector, galleries and museums cannot continue like this. We cannot accept money from sources that are affecting the world of our future generations so negatively.

Whether it is shunning donations from the Sackler family, whose pharmaceutical companies have contributed to the opioid addiction epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, or fossil fuel giants that are destroying the planet, all of us need to take a stand.

Younger generations are showing the way — most want to buy from and work for companies that are doing the right thing. Over 25 per cent of graduates of the top business schools now want to be involved in social impact investment.

Gone is the world when one can be immoral at work and get away with it. Bypassing unethical sponsors may not be easy, but it is the only way to ensure that tomorrow sees a better world.

Harry Phibbs, journalist at Conservative Home, says NO.

In the words of Greta Thunberg: “How dare you?” Most of the British Museum’s funding comes from our taxes — over £52m last year. That’s our money, which could go on nurses, teachers or police officers, or even be left with us to spend as we choose.

Yet the British Museum, which presumably claims that it needs every penny of that state funding, has had the nerve to bypass sponsorship from BP for the Arctic exhibition — a craven decision due to protests from Extinction Rebellion.

The objection is that BP produces fossil fuels. Is it suggested that it should immediately cease production? Do none of the trustees of the British Museum drive cars? Do they not heat their homes?

The main way to reduce carbon emissions in the immediate term is to shift to shale gas. BP itself is investing in fracking — and ironically some misguided environmentalists are attacking it for doing so.

The British Museum should have been proud to be sponsored by BP. The government needs to appoint new trustees. If the current bunch are foolish enough to be turning down BP’s money, why should they be trusted with any more of ours?

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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