Science Museum’s secret VIP opening targeted


Images credit: Fossil Free Science Museum Coalition

Thursday 21 March 2024, 8.30pm

​Science Museum’s secret VIP opening of new climate gallery hit by protest over coal and arms sponsor Adani


  • Protesters greeted guests at every entrance to the Science Museum as it hosted private opening of new climate gallery

  • ‘Energy Revolution’ gallery mired in controversy since announcement in 2021 over choice of coal and arms-producing conglomerate Adani as sponsor

  • More protest planned for Saturday 23rd March at 2pm as activists vow to ‘Reclaim the Science Museum’ from fossil fuel sponsors BP, Equinor and Adani

As smartly dressed guests arrived at the Science Museum in London this evening (Thursday 21 March) for the VIP opening of its new climate change gallery, they were greeted by protest over its choice of controversial coal mining and arms-producing conglomerate Adani as the gallery sponsor.


Despite the museum having made no announcement about the public opening of the ‘Energy Revolution’ gallery next week, hundreds of invited guests arrived for the private opening, greeted by drumming, banners, and flyers denouncing the sponsor. The museum has faced growing opposition since the sponsorship was announced and, just weeks ago, was confronted by climate activist Greta Thunberg and members of Extinction Rebellion when they directly challenged the museum’s Science Director Roger Highfield during a panel event.


Guests to the private opening included gallery contributors, corporate guests and Science Museum trustee Baroness Nicky Morgan. Protesters chanted, drummed and spoke to guests, despite attempts by security to prevent them exposing Adani’s climate and human rights record. The group unfurled large banners across the entrance reading ‘Adani Out’, ‘Shameful Sponsorship’, ‘End toxic fossil fuel sponsorship’ and ‘BP, Equinor and Adani are killing our planet’.


Rhian Ashford, who is part of the Fossil Free Science Museum coalition and took part in the protest, said:

“This Adani sponsorship deal is completely indefensible. For the Science Museum to claim that ‘Adani Green Energy’ is in no way connected to the Adani Group’s coal mines and power stations, alleged corruption and human rights abuses is a complete joke and simply not backed up by the facts. Right now, Adani’s coal projects are being resisted on the ground by Indigenous communities in India and Australia, while it also partners with Israeli weapons firm Elbit Systems, profiting from the suffering of Palestinians. No museum or public institution should be helping such a toxic firm to boost its brand and cynically promote its green credentials by sponsoring a climate change gallery.”


Despite the new ‘Energy Revolution’ gallery having been sold to Adani as “attracting a global audience of millions”, the museum has remained tight-lipped about the opening plans in what appears to be a concerted attempt to sidestep further opposition and protest: no public announcement of its opening date has been made.


The ‘Fossil Free Science Museum’ coalition has also announced a family-friendly protest this Saturday afternoon at 2pm to ‘Reclaim the Science Museum’ from its fossil fuel sponsors BP, the Norwegian state oil firm Equinor, and Adani.


The Science Museum defends its controversial sponsorship deal by claiming that it is only taking money from Adani’s renewables subsidiary, Adani Green Energy. However, internal emails disclosed under FOI rules show that the museum has primarily corresponded with the main Adani Group and brushed off clear evidence that Adani Green Energy was used to help generate funds for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Australia which is being resisted by Traditional owners of the land.


Investigations by research organisation Culture Unstained have revealed how the Science Museum had identified instances of corruption, fraud and human rights impacts as part of an internal 12-page due diligence report into the Adani Group but the museum then moved ahead with a sponsorship deal with Adani Green Energy in an apparent bid to sidestep the clear ethical conflicts. Adani has long been resisted by Indigenous Adivasi communities in India as it constructs new coal-fired power stations and coal mines on their lands. The conglomerate has also been accused of profiting from the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza via its partnership with Israeli arms firm Elbit Systems.


report by the Hindenburg Group last year alleged that the Adani group had committed fraud and stock manipulation on a “historic scale”, concerns brushed off in an email from the Director of the Science Museum to Adani as merely a week that must have been “rather torrid”. Just this week, Bloomberg also reported that Adani may now be investigated for bribery by the US Department of Justice.


Since 2016, 16 major UK cultural institutions including the National Portrait Gallery, Tate and Royal Shakespeare Company have ended sponsorship deals with major polluters such as BP and Shell. Leading science organisations, such as Amsterdam’s NEMO science museum, Kew Gardens and Edinburgh Science Festival have also cut their ties to fossil fuel producers, with the latter commenting in 2019 that:


‘Whilst we see change happening in the oil and gas sector and appreciate that the demands on them are complex, we are of the view that the sector is not moving fast enough to meet the IPCC targets and that there is a conflict between their behaviour and the underlying science.’