Climate activists occupy Science Museum overnight in protest against fossil fuel sponsorship

·4-min read

Watch: Climate change activists protest inside London's Science Museum over fossil fuel sponsorship

A group of 30 environmental activists spent Thursday night camped out in the Science Museum in South Kensington, central London, after occupying the institution to protest against it accepting money from businesses with ties to fossil fuel extraction.

The campaigners represent the London branch of the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN), a campaign group that describes itself as composed of “mostly under-18s taking to the streets to protest the government’s lack of action on the climate crisis.”

UKSCN occupied the exhibition centre’s lobby for approximately 18 hours, their sit-in beginning around 5.40pm on Tuesday evening and seeing participants stage a candlelit vigil for “the victims of the museum’s fossil fuel sponsors: Shell, BP, Equinor and Adani”.

Their demonstration came in response to the institution announcing the opening of its new Energy Revolution gallery in 2023, which has received funding from a subsidiary of the Adani Group, a multinational conglomerate involved in coal mining and coal-fired power stations.

The Science Museum, which was founded in 1857 and attracts around 3.3 million visitors annually, has also faced criticism for partnering with the oil giant Shell to fund its Our Future Planet exhibition, which concerns carbon capture and storage and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

UKSCN reportedly planned a similar protest in response to that announcement in June but were deterred by the threat of arrest.

Having gone ahead this time, activists initially took up position on the second floor before eventually negotiating a move to the institution’s Energy Hall near the main entrance with staff so that they could have access to toilet facilities.

They spent the night in the hall in sleeping bags, with some members of the collective pictured on Twitter making origami Shell signs out of paper in the early hours of the morning.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Officers attended and engaged with the protesters and museum staff. The protesters stated their intention was to remain in the museum overnight. This was agreed to by museum staff. No further police action was required.”

One of the protesters, identifying herself only as Ines, 17, to the Press Association, commented: “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.”

Taking part in an Instagram Live discussion during the demonstration, biologist Dr Alexander Penson 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.”

Speaking on Wednesday morning, UKSCN campaigner Lizzy Warren, 17, told the BBC she and her fellow demonstrators planned to continue to make their case against fossil fuel sponsorship to visitors arriving at the institution.

“We would really like to greet people who come to the museum this morning so they are aware of what they are supporting, and what they are paying for,” she said.

“The Science Museum is blatantly taking money from some of the worst perpetrators of the climate crisis.”

Responding to the protest, a Science Museum spokesperson told The Independent: “While dealing professionally and calmly with a small group of protesters, our team’s focus remains on the tens of thousands of people heading for an inspiring half term day out at the Science Museum, where visitors can explore two exhibitions addressing aspects of climate change, the most urgent challenge facing humanity.”

Watch: Climate change: Science Museum criticised for new partnership with Indian coal giant Adani ahead of COP26

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