A major Conservative Party donor and financial backer of Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign has been appointed chairman of the UK’s leading climate science denial campaign group.
Terence Mordaunt, who donated £100,000 to the official pro-Brexit campaign and co-owns Bristol port with business partner David Ord, quietly took over the leadership of the Global Warming Policy Foundation at the start of December, according to Companies House records.
Mordaunt has previously claimed that the link between rising carbon dioxide emissions and climate change is unproven, and that he is concerned climate-friendly policies will push up electricity costs for his business — issues the GWPF regularly campaigns on.
Featuring on the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated wealth of £380 million in 2018, up £122 million from the year before, Mordaunt has made significant donations to the Conservative Party. He has given a total of £34,600 in a personal capacity and £264,500 through First Corporate Shipping and First Corporate Consultants, both of which he co-owns.
First Corporate Shipping donated £25,000 to both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt’s leadership campaigns in May. Six weeks after receiving the donation, Johnson backed the idea of making six UK ports, including Bristol, tax-free.
BuzzFeed News recently revealed that the Johnson-led government had awarded £100,000 to Bristol Port, as well as 15 others, to help them prepare for Brexit. The move sparked criticism from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who said Johnson had “serious questions to answer”, given that the port had already said it was “Brexit-ready”. A Department for Transport spokesperson denied there was any wrongdoing, however.
The GWPF’s campaign arm last week issued a press release celebrating Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister, saying he and his MPs had “the mandate and the majority to reform climate and energy policy in such a way that it won’t undermine Britain’s international competitiveness, hurt businesses and burden households with rising costs”.
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Mordaunt did not respond to questions from DeSmog, including whether he had made any donations to the GWPF previously.
Mordaunt’s predecessor as the GWPF’s chairman, Labour peer Lord Donoughue, had been in the role for less than a year after succeeding former Chancellor Lord Lawson, who founded the organisation in the run-up to the failed Copenhagen climate talks 10 years ago.
Other trustees of the GWPF, which shares an office with a number of pro-Brexit, free market lobby groups and thinktanks at 55 Tufton Street, include Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph and Spectator, Labour MP Graham Stringer and former Conservative MP, now Lord, Peter Lilley.
Mordaunt has previously cast doubt on the threat of climate change and opposed measures to combat it, including a tidal energy project in the Bristol Channel.
When asked by openDemocracy to clarify his position regarding climate change earlier this year, Mordaunt appeared to reject mainstream science on the issue.
“No one has proved yet that CO2 is the culprit. It may not be. If you ask me should we just put CO2 in the air I would say ‘no’. And that is the stance of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It is a credible theory,” he said.
He also expressed concern about rising electricity costs, “particularly for the port”, which he blamed on UK energy policy.
Find out more about the Global Warming Policy Foundation and other groups undermining climate action in our Climate Disinformation Database.
Mordaunt’s involvement in the GWPF dates back to at least 2017, when he became a board member of the Global Warming Policy Forum. The Forum was set up as a campaigning wing of the charity after a 2014 investigation by the Charity Commission found the Foundation’s website “could not be regarded as a comprehensive and structured educational resource”.
Mordaunt said at the time of his appointment in 2017 that the GWPF, which did not respond to a request for comment on this story, had “brought much needed rigour into the climate debate”.
Mordaunt’s Bristol Port Company was a prominent critic of the abandoned Severn Barrage scheme, a renewable energy project that could provide for as much as five percent of the UK’s electricity demand, estimates have suggested. In 2013, the port said the barrage would prevent larger ships accessing its docks and “leave the port commercially unviable”.
The port currently owns three wind turbines, which it says generate up to two thirds of its energy needs, and has received subsidies for these, apparently putting it at odds with the GWPF’s opposition to government support for clean energy.
Mordaunt and Ord previously owned a now-defunct company called Bristol Oil and Gas, which was set up in the hope of exploring for fossil fuels on Bristol Port Company land.