Youth climate activists ‘occupy’ Science Museum all night over fossil fuel sponsorship

·4 min read
Demonstrators occupied the building overnight and unveiled banners (Ines at UKSCN)
Demonstrators occupied the building overnight and unveiled banners (Ines at UKSCN)

Thirty youth climate activists “occupied” London’s Science Museum on Tuesday night in protest at its sponsorship deals with fossil fuel companies.

Members of the London branch of the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN London) held a candlelight vigil at the famous landmark for “the victims of the Museum’s fossil fuel sponsors: Shell BP, Equinor and Adani”.

Pictures of the group were posted on social media overnight with some members making origami shells into the early hours, while a picture of activists asleep was put up at 3.30am, and another at 5.40am.

The group confirmed at 6am on Wednesday that they would begin to leave the building after staying there for 12 hours.

A spokesperson for UKSCN London said that demonstrators had successfully negotiated to remain in the museum overnight where they unfurled banners and hosted livestreams on social media.

The Metropolitan Police said officers were in attendance but later left the scene. No arrests were made.

A spokesperson said: “At approximately 17:40hrs on Tuesday, 26 October, police were made aware of a protest inside and outside a museum on Exhibition Road, SW7.

“Officers attended and engaged with the protestors and museum staff.

“The protestors stated their intention was to remain in the museum overnight. This was agreed to by museum staff. No further police action was required and there were no arrests.”

The demonstration comes after the Science Museum last week announced a new gallery, called Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery, which is supported by a subsidiary of the Adani Group.

Adani is a multinational conglomerate involved in coal extraction and coal-fired power stations.

Biologist Dr Alexander Penson, who took part in the sit-in, said it was “appalling” that the museum was persisting in fossil fuel sponsorship and starting a new relationship with Adani.

In an Instagram Live video by UKSCN London from inside the museum, he said: “The way that they tell it is that they are working with the green energy arm of the company and they then just forget about the coal.

“We can all agree that we need new green infrastructure, that we need green jobs … but you can’t just then forget about the dirty infrastructure that we need to retire.”

The museum has also faced criticism for partnering with Shell to fund its Our Future Planet exhibition about carbon capture and storage and nature-based solutions to the climate crisis.

The agreement with the fossil fuel giant included a gagging clause, committing the museum not to say anything that could damage Shell’s reputation.

Demonstrators protested against the Science Museum’s sponsorship deals with fossil fuel companies (PA)
Demonstrators protested against the Science Museum’s sponsorship deals with fossil fuel companies (PA)

UKSCN activists attempted to spend the night in the museum in June in protest at the Shell sponsorship, but abandoned the move when they were threatened with arrest by police officers.

The group also previously staged demonstrations outside the Science Museum, alongside activists from the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion.

Ines, 17, a member of UKSCN London, said: “We are less than a week away from the start of Cop26.

“Now is the time to abolish fossil fuel companies, not collaborate with them or invite them into our cultural spaces.

Protesters outside the building on Tuesday night (PA)
Protesters outside the building on Tuesday night (PA)

“The Science Museum’s senior management and board have shut down any attempt at a conversation with young activists and scientists.

“Meanwhile, they are welcoming some of the worst perpetrators of the climate crisis with open arms … The Science Museum needs to seriously rethink its sponsorship deals before it loses its remaining credibility and legitimacy as a scientific institution.”

The occupiers negotiated with museum staff to be moved from the second floor of the building to the Energy Hall near the main entrance so that they would have access to restrooms for the whole night, they said in a video posted to Twitter.

UKSCN London had earlier tweeted that the institution was “denying us access to basic safety and hygiene by locking the toilets and refusing to give us safe, sanitary and dignified toilet facilities.”

The Science Museum has been approached for comment.

In a press release announcing the new Energy Revolution gallery, due to open in 2023, the museum said it will examine “how the world can undergo the fastest energy transition in history to curb climate change”.

Dame Mary Archer, chair of the Science Museum Group, said: “We’re hugely grateful to Adani Green Energy for the significant financial support they are providing for this gallery.”

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