Climate protesters occupy Science Museum all night over fossil fuel sponsors


Protesters spent the whole night refusing to budge from the museum all night in protest over its deals with petrol companies (Picture: Ron Fassbender)

Young environmentalists occupied London’s Science Museum overnight in protest over its sponsorship deals with fossil fuel companies.

The UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) said it was holding a candlelight vigil for the ‘victims of the museum’s fossil fuel sponsors: Shell, BP, Equinor and Adani’.

Members posted photos overnight, with some making origami shells into the early hours to keep themselves entertained, while others were pictured sleeping at 3.30am.

The Metropolitan Police said officers were in attendance and that no arrests have been made.

Students stayed at the museum for 12 hours in total before announcing this morning that their job was done and that they’d be leaving.

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.

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Police were called to the museum in central London but no arrests were made (Picture: Ron Fassbender)
Protesters stayed 12 hours in the museum as they demanded an end to its fossil fuel sponsorships (Picture: Ron Fassbender)

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 the company.

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.’

In a statement, UKSCN London said: ‘The Science Museum is continuously legitimising and greenwashing Shell and other fossil fuel corporations, allowing them to use this platform to push “solutions” to the climate crisis that allow them to continue to extract fossil fuels and profit off environmental destruction.

‘Even COP26 officials have recognised fossil fuel corporations are way behind urgent targets, yet the museum continues to turn a blind eye.

Students held a candlelit vigil for the ‘victims’ of Shell, BP, Equinor and Adani (Picture: Ron Fassbender)
Protesters left tributes to groups of people who would suffer the most from the impact of climate change (Picture: Ron Fassbender)
The group of around 30 demonstrators stayed for a total of 12 hours before deciding to leave (Picture: Ron Fassbender)

‘Occupying the Science Museum for the second time hasn’t been an easy decision but we have no other choice.

‘We’ve no tried a variety of tactics, including letters, petitions, protests and a previous occupation, all of which have either been ignored or met with excuses and ridicule. There is no space for fossil fuels in cultural institutions.

‘The Tate, Southbank Centre, Royal Shakespeare company and many others have dropped fossil fuel sponsorship; this Science Museum is lagging behind. It’s time the museum drops fossil fuel sponsorship.’

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, as reported in July.

Demonstrators gather outside the building in protest against ‘greenwashing’ (Picture: PA)
Demonstrators said staff initially ‘denied access’ to toilets, before they negotiated a move from the second floor to the entrance (Picture: Ron Fassbender)
UKSCN previously attempted to occupy the museum overnight in June but abandoned the plan due to threats of arrest (Picture: Ron Fassbender)

At the time, the Science Museum said that ‘energy companies need to play a big part’ in the ‘transition to a low carbon economy’.

It added: ‘We regard the blanket approach demanded by some campaigners of severing all relationships with energy companies as unproductive.’

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.

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

Among the group of 30 students last night was UKSCN London member, Ines, 17, who 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.

‘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.

‘Now is the time to abolish fossil fuel companies, not collaborate with them or invite them into our cultural spaces’, said UKSCN member Ines (Picture: Ron Fassbender)
Protesters accused the museum of ‘turning a blind eye’ to a lack of progress made by fossil fuel companies (Picture: Ron Fassbender)
The protest comes as the UK prepares to host the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow (Picture: Ron Fassbender)

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’.

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’.

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

A Met Police spokesman 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 remain in attendance and are engaging with the protesters. There have been no arrests.’ has contacted the Science Museum for comment.

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