A 37-year partnership between the fossil fuel giant Shell and Australia’s national science and technology center Questacon – which branded and offered science activities for children – is coming to an end.
Canberra-based Questacon has also confirmed that a four-year, $1 million sponsorship deal with Japanese oil and gas company Inpex will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the financial year.
Additional $10 million in funding for Questacon in last week’s federal budget was in part to cover lost fossil fuel revenue from the two partnerships.
Climate campaigners said the withdrawal of Questacon’s two main fossil fuel sponsors was “extremely welcome”.
Shell was a major partner from 1985 to 2020 of the Shell Questacon Science Circus, a program of science shows and teacher training described as the “world’s longest running science outreach programme”.
In 2021 and 2022, Questacon said, its agreement with Shell was “refocused and realigned” to build science, technology, engineering and math capacity in regional areas.
Shell became a lower-tier “supporting partner” in 2021 and donated $500,000 that year and $250,000 this year.
Questacon said in a statement that Shell’s funding has “enabled the program to reach over 2.5 million Australians in over 600 towns and 100 remote Indigenous communities during this period”.
Questacon said: “It’s the natural conclusion of the partnership agreement. Questacon and Shell have agreed to leave the partnership as planned in December 2022.”
Inpex’s $1 million over four years aimed to “engage young Australians in conversations about energy, including how energy is used and created, the importance of energy and its role in sustainable development.
On Inpex, Questacon said: “This is the natural conclusion to the partnership agreement. There are no planned partnership activities with Inpex beyond June 30, 2023.”
Questacon is a division of the Department of Industry, Science and Resources and about half of its funding comes from government, with the rest from partnerships.
The statement adds that the science circus program will be extended following the announcement of $10 million in new funding in last week’s budget.
The partnerships did not “allow the partner organization to control the content of work produced by Questacon,” he said.
A Shell spokesperson said the company had reviewed its “social investment strategy” to support “more activities with direct benefits in the communities where we operate”.
The company had “made the decision to exit the Questacon partnership at the end of the year” but would continue to invest “to help young people develop skills in Stem areas that will be crucial for the energy transition, creating opportunities stronger career paths in our regions”. .
Inpex said the company is “proud to partner with Questacon to positively impact Stem education for students and teachers in Australia and Japan.”
“We believe supporting education helps underpin a cleaner energy future,” a statement added.
Lee Constable, a professional science communicator and former Shell Questacon Science Circus presenter, said: “I think [being free of fossil fuel sponsorship] enhances the credibility of our national science center and I encourage others to consider their fossil fuel sponsorships.
Community pressure is growing against fossil fuel sponsorships and advertising, with some critics comparing it to how the tobacco industry has used sports advertising to try to improve its public image, only to have such ads banned in many Many countries.
Belinda Noble, founder of climate group CommsDeclare, said Questacon’s decision came after years of efforts by environmental groups and advocates to remove the influence of fossil fuels on education.
She said: “There is no place for fossil fuel sponsorships in a society that takes the fight against greenhouse gas emissions seriously and Questacon should exclude any companies that profit from future partnerships. high-emitting products.
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