Ties to coal producer Adani ignored at Science Museum Director’s Dinner as COP26 President accepts Fellowship

  • Sharma overlooks Science Museum’s ties to coal producer and accepts Fellowship during Director’s Annual Dinner
  • Guests greeted by climate activists calling out museum’s fossil fuel sponsors outside museum entrance
  • Canapes served in museum gallery sponsored by Equinor which is pursuing new Rosebank oil field

Last night, as the Science Museum continues to face opposition over its fossil fuel sponsors, it hosted its Annual Director’s Dinner where Alok Sharma MP was made a Fellow of the museum, “in recognition of his exceptional leadership as the President of COP26 in drawing attention to the urgent need to transition to a net-zero world.” However, guests for “the most stellar event in the Museum’s calendar” were greeted by climate campaigners and drummers as they arrived, who shone a spotlight on the museum’s sponsorship deals with the oil and gas firms BP and Equinor, as well as the coal-producing conglomerate Adani.

The high-profile event began with canapés served in the Museum’s Wonderlab gallery for children, a space that continues to be prominently sponsored and branded by the Norwegian state oil company Equinor, and which has faced growing opposition over its plans to open the new Rosebank oil field in the North Sea. Just last week, the company was called out during its AGM over its decision to pursue new oil exploration, a move at odds with the International Energy Agency finding that no new investment in coal, oil and gas is possible if the world is to achieve net zero by 2050.

Later in the evening, Alok Sharma MP was formally awarded a Fellowship of the Science Museum in acknowledgement of his climate leadership during the COP26 Climate Summit. As President of COP26, Alok Sharma MP was praised for making clear that the world must “consign coal power to history” and that in order to “keep 1.5C alive we must halve global emissions by 2030.” However, the Science Museum continues to defend its decision to accept sponsorship from Adani – the Indian coal-producing conglomerate mired in allegations of fraud – for a new gallery on energy transition and climate change which will open in the Autumn. It comes as the World Meteorological Association has now made clear that that crucial 1.5C threshold may already be breached – albeit temporarily – by 2027.  

Adani Green Energy – the named sponsor of the new ‘Energy Revolution’ gallery – was recently dropped from the UN-backed Science Based Targets Initiative’s (SBTi) list of companies regarded as taking meaningful climate action. The move came after it had been shown that there are clear links between Adani Green Energy’s investments and those parts of the Adani Group that are responsible for the expansion of coal mining and coal-fired power plants, which has also led some investment groups to also withdraw their funds. Despite the evidence, the Science Museum has continued to defend the partnership, recently telling the Museums Journal that, “sponsorship by the major renewable energy company Adani Green Energy is enabling us to create a brand new gallery at the Science Museum exploring the vital energy transition needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels and curb climate change.”

The official programme for the Annual Director’s Dinner 2023 touts the Science Museum’s green credentials while glossing over the controversy surrounding its stance on fossil fuel sponsorship

Her Excellency Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, the UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, also gave a keynote speech at the dinner. However, there continues to be widespread criticism of the decision to allow the UAE to host the COP28 Climate Summit later this year, with the former UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres saying that the United Arab Emirates’ approach to COP28 is “very dangerous” and a “direct threat to the survival of vulnerable nations”.

Meanwhile, BP continues to be a corporate partner of the museum despite recently rowing back on its commitment to cut its own oil production and continuing to invest in new extraction of hydrocarbons. While the Science Museum hasn’t confirmed publicly, it is likely that the museum’s fossil fuel sponsors were invited to attend the Annual Director’s Dinner, with Freedom of Information disclosures showing that Shell was invited to similar events in the past (see email below) with the museum’s Director Ian Blatchford often actively helping the companies to deflect criticism of their sponsorship deals and boost their public profile.

Energy Revolution: the Adani Green Energy Gallery” is due to open this coming November, after the Museum’s partnership with Adani was announced in October 2021, ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit. Two trustees have already resigned from the Board over the decision to accept the sponsorship and many contributors have refused to work with the museum again until it shifts its stance. Meanwhile, representatives of Indigenous people have called on the Director to listen to their concerns and drop Adani as a sponsor; teachers and educators have threatened a boycott and young people and scientists have repeatedly spoken out and protested inside the Museum.

Protests with boycott placards and a South Asia Solidarity Group banner in front of the Science Museum entrance
Members of the Fossil Free Science Museum coalition protest against Adani during the museum’s India-themed Late event