Science Museum

Controversy over sponsorship of Science Museum’s planned climate change exhibition

Image: Staff reopening the doors of the Science Museum after five months of closure © Science Museum Group

The interactive exhibition is set to open in 2023, but funding from an energy group still using fossil fuels has been met with criticism.

The Science Museum has announced an upcoming exhibition, focussed on modern efforts to curb climate change, with funding from the green arm of a large energy company which has been met with criticism.

Opening in 2023, ‘Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery’ is set to explore the latest climate science and the requirements necessary to cut global dependence on fossil fuels.

The announcement comes as delegates gather for the Global Investment Summit, hosted at the Science Museum by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Adani Green Energy, an arm of Indian multinational conglomerate Adani Group, is to provide the exhibition’s title funding.

According to the Science Museum, the company is the leading solar power developer, and aims to be “the world’s largest renewable power generating company by 2030”.

But the funding has been met with criticism from campaigning organisations including Culture Unstained, which hopes to end fossil fuel sponsorship of cultural organisations.

The group has accused Adani Green Energy’s parent company, Adani Group, of ‘greenwashing’ as it points to reports that the group plans to expand its fossil-fuel based energy production while claiming it is committed to climate change.

According to a report from Bloomberg in July 2021, alongside claims from Australian activism group Market Forces, Adani Group plans to double its coal-fired power capacity, and plans to own, develop or operate new coal mines with a combined capacity of 132 million tons a year.

On its website, Market Forces addressed Gautam Adani, Chairman of Adani Green Energy and the Adani Group, writing: “Coal billionaire Gautam Adani cannot be allowed to greenwash his company’s reputation in front of world leaders and investors at the Global Investment Summit in London and the United Nations COP26 in Glasgow.”

The Adani Green Energy Gallery

Set to open in two years, the Science Museum said ‘Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery’ will draw on the Science Museum Group Collection and loans, and will include interactive and digital storytelling to demonstrate the latest energy science.

Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the Science Museum Group, said in a launch statement that the new gallery “provides us all with a powerful action programme”.

“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.”

Dame Archer concluded: “We’re hugely grateful to Adani Green Energy for the significant financial support they are providing for this gallery.

Gautam Adani said of the planned gallery: “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.”

Visitors to the exhibition will see data visualisations and future climate projections.

Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery is being developed around four thematic sections.

The Science Museum said Alternative Futures will use examples from history to scrutinize the moments when people have imagined different kinds of energy futures – often at times of crisis – and the story of the energy shifts that have shaped our world.

Future Planet will consider present day projections of the future, looking at how climate scientists use complex climate models to understand Earth’s systems.

Future Energy and Power will focus on the technologies with potential to support a global shift to a low carbon future, and Future Living will explore people’s ability to influence the future, and the prospect of a ”just energy transition” that allows better living standards in developing nations.

Past climate backlash

The new exhibition will replace the Science Museum’s Atmosphere Gallery, which opened in December 2010, and was supported by energy company Shell.

It follows news earlier this month that the museum’s former director Prof. Chris Rapley resigned from its Advisory Board over its acceptance of oil and gas sponsorship.

While in his role at the Science Museum Rapley oversaw the original deal with Shell for the Atmosphere Gallery, but wrote in an open letter earlier this month that there was a “need to abolish fossil fuels as quickly as possible”.

He cited the Science Museum’s parent company, Science Museum Group’s “ongoing willingness to accept oil and gas company sponsorship,” as part of his decision to step down.

The museum, in response to Rapley’s departure, argued that a range of exhibitions and initiatives such as the Atmosphere Gallery, which have been funded in part by oil and gas companies, “would not have been possible” without support from Shell.