London’s Science Museum strikes new sponsorship deal with coal giant Adani

  • Gautam Adani reveals major deal to sponsor new ‘Energy Revolution’ Gallery 
  • Move branded ‘astonishing’ and ‘reckless’ as museum continues to face intense criticism for oil sponsorship following resignation of Advisory Board member
  • Adani is a major coal producer, under fire for land grabs and disregarding Indigenous rights in Australia and India 
  • Traditional Owner of land where Adani mine is being constructed slams the museum as ‘complicit in Adani’s violation of our Human Rights and destruction of our ancestral lands’

Today, Indian billionaire and owner of major coal and renewables company Gautam Adani, revealed on twitter that his company has signed a major new sponsorship deal with the UK’s Science Museum, to sponsor its new ‘Energy Revolution’ gallery, due to open in 2023. The museum subsequently confirmed this with a press release and blog.

The museum is already under intense pressure over its existing sponsorship deals with oil and gas majors Shell, BP and Equinor. On October 2nd the museum’s former director Prof Chris Rapley resigned from its Advisory Board over its ‘willingness to accept oil and gas sponsorship’. The news comes on the day of the government’s Global Investment Summit, which is taking place at the Science Museum as part of the run-up to the COP26 Climate Summit.

The Adani Group is an Indian multinational conglomerate heavily involved in coal extraction and coal-fired power stations. While declaring it wants to be the largest renewable energy company in the world by 2030, Adani is also expanding its coal footprint by 800%, according to the #StopAdani campaign. Coal is the number one driver of the climate crisis and the International Energy Agency has made it clear that new investment in coal, oil and gas must end this year in order to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Jess Worth from Culture Unstained said:

‘Scientists, young people and even their own advisors were already walking away from the Science Museum over oil sponsorship. But astonishingly, the museum’s management have doubled down and signed up Adani – a coal conglomerate – to sponsor a gallery about the energy transition! Their enthusiasm for fossil fuel partnerships has turned controversy into a crisis of credibility, and they must be held to account for their reckless decisions. As COP26 approaches, the world needs climate leadership from the UK, not the unseemly sight of our once-renowned Science Museum jumping into bed with Big Coal.’

Adani is facing intense opposition across India for its coal expansion, land grabs and pollution, and in Australia for the massive Carmichael coal mine. The company has been accused of greenwashing, for pushing Adani Green Energy’s credentials while still engaged in massive coal expansion, often on Indigenous lands. For more info on Adani, see this new briefing.

Adani is still pushing through the hugely controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia, although it has been significantly delayed and downgraded due to widespread opposition. The Indigenous Traditional Owners of the land – the Wangan and Jagalingou people – have never given their free, prior and informed consent to the mine. Uncle Adrian Burragubba, spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council and senior cultural custodian, who has been targeted by Adani for challenging the mine, says: 

‘Adani bankrupted me for standing up for my rights and filed a court order making it illegal for our people to practice culture on our own country. By putting this company on a pedestal, the Science Museum is complicit in Adani’s violation of our Human Rights and destruction of our ancestral lands. Like Adani, the Science Museum is ignoring the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination who requested Adani’s mine be suspended because it may violate our rights as Indigenous people. Adani does not have our free prior and informed consent.

Varsha Yajman, Indian-Australian climate activist and former School Strike 4 Climate organiser said: 

‘It is embarrassing that the Science Museum would support Adani, a company ignoring the science and destroying what should be preserved and sacred to the Indigenous populations of India and Australia. The Adani coal mine is being burnt on Indigenous Adivasi land in Godda without the consent of Adivasis. If the Science Museum proceeds with this, it, like Adani, is taking away the basic rights of Indigenous populations in India and Australia.

While no cultural institution should be partnering with a fossil fuel company in a climate crisis, the choice of Adani seems to break even the Science Museum Group (SMG)’s own inadequate standards for judging partners on their climate impacts. They have said that they use the Transition Pathway Initiative’s ‘Management Quality Index’ tool to assess sponsors’ progress on decarbonisation, and that they require sponsors to have a rating of at least 3. While this is a hugely flawed way of judging whether companies’ climate commitments are adequate, it did recently lead to the SMG walking away from a partnership with the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative due to one of its members, Saudi Aramco, only scoring 2. Yet Adani Enterprises (the group’s coal division) scores even worse: it gets just 1, reflecting the fact it is about as far from being on a journey to decarbonise as it’s possible to get. 

Since the Science Museum controversially announced Shell as sponsor of its current flagship climate exhibition, ‘Our Future Planet’, in April, a major backlash has unfolded with scientists, exhibition contributors, Greta Thunberg and the wider public speaking out through protests, petitions and a youth-led boycott of the exhibition. In August it was revealed by Channel 4 News, based on an investigation by Culture Unstained, that the museum had signed a ‘gagging clause’ with Shell committing not to “damage the goodwill or reputation” of Shell, despite major controversy surrounding the sponsor’s climate impacts. 

Youth strikers UKSCN London have mounted a concerted campaign for Shell to be dropped after discovering the museum had included placards within the Shell-sponsored exhibition from the strikes without the strike organisers’ knowledge or consent. They launched a boycott of the exhibition, staged an overnight protest which was shut down when the museum called the police, and worked with one of the young people who’d created the placards to get it removed from the exhibition last month.

The museum has also been the target of multiple Extinction Rebellion protests, with Scientists for XR leading a 70-strong overnight occupation of the museum over the August Bank Holiday. On Sunday, several XR groups and others delivered a huge pile of ‘coal’ to the Science Museum in protest at their hosting of the Global Investment Summit today, which will feature several major polluters and fossil fuel investors as speakers, including, campaigners believe, Adani himself.

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