Science Museum strikes ‘astonishing’ new sponsorship deal with coal giant Adani

Agreement comes weeks after protests and resignation of board member amid huge backlash against Shell ‘greenwashing’ exhibition

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Tuesday 19 October 2021 18:50 BST
<p>Protesters from Extinction Rebellion at the Science Museum in August after the announcement of the Shell sponsorship deal</p>

Protesters from Extinction Rebellion at the Science Museum in August after the announcement of the Shell sponsorship deal

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Just weeks after London’s Science Museum sparked angry protests, and the eventual resignation of a board member, for holding an exhibition on the climate crisis sponsored by oil company Shell, the museum has now agreed a sponsorship deal with major coal producer Adani.

The museum made the announcement of a new gallery sponsored by Adani as international investors gathered for a Global Investment Summit hosted at the museum by Boris Johnson, billed as an effort towards building “the green economy of the future”, ahead of the Cop26 climate summit.

The Adani sponsorship has been described as “astonishing” and “reckless” by conservationists.

The Indian company, whose activities include coal mining, oil refining and gas distribution, as well as renewable energy projects, is currently planning to build one of the largest coalmines in the world, in Australia, where there are concerns it could have a serious impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

The new “Energy Revolution” gallery is due to open in 2023, and will examine “how the world can undergo the fastest energy transition in history to curb climate change”, the museum said.

Culture Unstained, a campaign group that aims to end the sponsorship of cultural events by fossil fuel firms, said: “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 per cent.”

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth told The Independent that accepting sponsorship from Adani was “unacceptable”.

“In the midst of a climate crisis, national institutions shouldn’t be part of the fossil fuel industry’s desperate attempts to greenwash its image.”

The alignment with a major coal producer comes immediately after 70 scientists called on the British government to immediately end all new investment in fossil fuels.

Coal remains the biggest contributor to the worsening climate crisis and the International Energy Agency has said new investment in coal, oil and gas must end this year in order to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Science Museum is already under intense pressure to follow other London museums and art galleries and stop agreeing sponsorship deals with oil and gas firms.

It currently has deals with Shell, BP and Equinor, and has been accused of providing a platform for these firms for “greenwashing”.

On 2 October the museum’s former director Professor Chris Rapley resigned from its advisory board over its “willingness to accept oil and gas sponsorship”.

In a statement the Science Museum said: “The gallery will explore the latest climate science and the energy revolution needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels and achieve the Paris targets to limit global warming to around 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.”

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.

“This gallery will take a truly global perspective on the world’s most urgent challenge. We face a grave threat, but the future is not predestined – it is still in our hands if we can build the coalition required for urgent and far-reaching action.”

Gautam Adani, chairman of Adani Green Energy, said: “The Renewable Energy revolution to get to this point has been remarkable. The limitless power of the wind and sun is awe inspiring and our ability to harness that power is finally within reach.

“There is so much to learn from the history of this journey as the world writes a cleaner future and who better than the Science Museum team to depict this inspiration.”

In response to a request for comment from The Independent on the decision to partner with Adani, Sir Ian Blatchford, the director and chief executive of the Science Museum highlighted Adani’s renewable energy portfolio. The company is also expanding its parallel fossil fuel interests.

“Adani Green Energy is an example of an energy sector business bringing expertise and investment to renewables at scale,” he said.

“Adani Green Energy already has one of the world’s largest renewable portfolios and plans to invest $20bn in clean energy generation, component manufacturing, transmission and distribution over the next 10 years.

“And be in no doubt, such massive investments are needed to move India, a country of 1.38 billion people, from high carbon to low carbon energy whilst still meeting their growing energy needs. And that sustainable energy needs to reach the vast network of rural communities, as well as the cities.”

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