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


By PA News

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Youth climate activists have “occupied” London’s Science Museum in protest at its sponsorship deals with fossil fuel companies.

Members of the London branch of the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN London) said they were holding a candlelight vigil at the famous landmark on Tuesday evening 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.

Youth climate activists hold a candlelight vigil for lives lost to oil companies (UKSCN/PA)
Youth climate activists hold a candlelight vigil for lives lost to oil companies (UKSCN/PA)

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

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.

The Science Museum needs to seriously rethink its sponsorship deals before it loses its remaining credibility and legitimacy as a scientific institution
Ines, UKSCN London member

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.

Members of the UK Student Climate Network London are staging a sleep-in at the museum (UKSCN/PA)
Members of the UK Student Climate Network London are staging a sleep-in at the museum (UKSCN/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.

“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.”

Activists say they intend to stay overnight and create an art installation made up of hundreds of origami shells (UKSCN/PA)
Activists say they intend to stay overnight and create an art installation made up of hundreds of origami shells (UKSCN/PA)

A spokesman for the Met Police 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.”

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