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Science Museum, London protest rally

Joe Ware, Protestors at London Science Museum rally against ‘greenwashing’ new sponsor, The Art Newspaper, 25 March 2024

More than 150 people attended Saturday’s demonstration at the Science Museum in London. Photo: Andrea Domeniconi
More than 150 people occupied London’s Science Museum on Saturday in protest against a new gallery sponsored by part of the Indian conglomerate Adani, which has ties to coal mining and arms manufacture.

The museum has been accused of letting Adani Group, the world’s largest private coal miner, ‘greenwash’ its activities by sponsoring Energy Revolution: the Adani Green Energy gallery through its renewable energy subsidiary. The new gallery, which opens on Tuesday, highlights how renewable energy can help tackle climate change.

An investigation by research group Culture Unstained, using documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests, revealed that the museum had produced an internal due diligence report which identified instances of alleged corruption and fraud, as well as human rights concerns associated with the Adani Group.

On Saturday the museum’s Energy Hall was filled with 150 protestors wearing black who unfurled a 12-metre banner depicting Adivasi women opposing Adani operations in India. Adani has been accused of clearing people from the indigenous Adivasi community from their ancestral lands.

The protestors also accused Adani of profiting from the war in Gaza through its partnership with Israeli weapon manufacturers Elbit Systems. Mukti Shah, from South Asia Solidarity Group, said: “Adani manufactures drones and guns which are used in the genocide against Palestinians and to kill and maim Kashmiris and people protesting in India. Adani is displacing indigenous Adivasi communities in India from their lands on a huge scale. Adani bankrolls Narendra Modi’s violent Hindu-supremacist government in India which is committing ethnic cleansing against minorities. It is shocking and shameful that the Science Museum is helping to greenwash this murderous corporation by accepting its sponsorship.”

The Adani sponsorship was first announced in 2021. It led to trustees Hannah Fry and Jo Foster resigning over the decision and leading climate scientist, and the museum’s former director, Chris Rapley, stepping down from the advisory group. While other cultural institutions have moved away from fossil fuel sponsorship in recent years, the Science Museum has struck deals with Adani as well as the oil companies BP and Equinor.

Scientists have been among those criticising the sponsorship. Dr Caroline Vincent, of Scientists for Extinction Rebellion said: “A gallery about renewable energy is exactly what the Science Museum should do, but the choice of the sponsor beggars belief. The museum’s own due diligence on Adani revealed major fines, examples of litigation, ongoing criminal investigations, poor worker conditions and human rights issues. They chose to partner with Adani Green instead, so they could brush aside the initial findings.”

In response to the protests this weekend, Sir Ian Blatchford, director and chief executive of the Science Museum Group, defended the choice of sponsor. “Engaging our audiences with the science of climate change— the defining challenge of our time—is a key priority for the Science Museum Group,” he said. “Our innovative new gallery will explore how we might achieve the urgent energy transition the world needs to see, a project made possible by generous sponsorship from Adani Green Energy, a major renewable energy business based in India whose huge population is expected to drive the biggest energy demand growth of any country in the world in the coming decades.”

Adani Group was contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, the British Museum closed its doors early on Sunday after pro-Palestine protestors gathered to demonstrate against the museum’s partnership with BP. The group behind the demonstration, a new UK-based collective called Energy Embargo for Palestine, aimed to draw links to the conflict in Gaza as part of the protest. It referenced the news that Israel has awarded six companies, including BP, offshore gas exploration licenses since the war began.