A Tory MP leading a backbench revolt against climate action recently received £5,000 from the chair of the UK’s most prominent climate science denial group.
Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister, insists that his Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) of MPs accepts climate science and is only concerned about the cost and efficacy of the UK’s 2050 net zero target.
But the parliamentary register of interests shows that Baker received £5,000 from Neil Record, a Tory Party donor and chairman of both the climate science-denying Global Warming Policy Forum and the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, which has received funding from oil giant BP, and has a record of opposing government climate policies.
GWPF-founder Lord Nigel Lawson, who is also a board member of the Forum/Net Zero Watch, recently wrote that “global warming is not a problem”.
The stated purpose of the donation, which was registered in January 2022, was in support of a parliamentary group run by Baker, which opposes coronavirus restrictions.
This is the latest connection to be brought to light between the NZSG and the climate science-denying GWPF.
It comes after DeSmog revealed that Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, who runs the NZSG alongside Baker, employs two parliamentary aides linked to the GWPF, including its head of policy, Harry Wilkinson, and that both MPs are close allies of a motoring lobbyist who failed to declare an interest in fossil fuel-powered vehicles in an MP-backed report.
Neil Record is one of the GWPF’s few known funders. He confirmed his support for the group in response to a DeSmog investigation in 2014.
Record is also chair of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), an influential libertarian think tank with a record of opposing government climate policy and with ties to Baker. Record has also funded the IEA, which counts Foreign Secretary Liz Truss among its strongest supporters.
A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of the dangers of climate misinformation, which it said “undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency”, at a time when there is “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.
The donation was registered in January for “services of a media and strategic campaign consultant” from December to February for the Covid Recovery Group, of which Baker is deputy chair, and “the coming relaunch of Conservative Way Forward”, a libertarian pressure group.
Conservative Way Forward’s honorary vice president, Sir Christopher Chope, was one of only five MPs to vote against the 2008 Climate Change Act. In 2018 he attended a GWPF event to mark ten years since the passing of the Act, during which the GWPF blamed it, along with “other anti-fossil-fuel policies”, for fuel poverty in the UK.
Baker has been active in calling for more fossil fuel extraction, seizing on the Russian invasion of Ukraine to urge the government to overturn its moratorium on fracking for shale gas. At the start of this week he arranged a letter to the Prime Minister week making this case that was reportedly signed by 34 MPs and five members of the House of Lords.
The donation from Record further confirms the close relationship between the NZSG and the GWPF. Baker is one of three NZSG members who are current or former trustees of the GWPF. Lord Peter Lilley, another NZSG parliamentarian, is a former GWPF trustee.
Baker wrote an article to coincide with the Global Warming Policy Forum’s rebranding as Net Zero Watch in October 2021.
Baker also has a relationship with Record’s other organisation, the IEA. In January 2020, the local Conservative Party in Baker’s constituency of Wycombe received a £3,000 donation from Bruno Prior, a trustee of the charity. At an IEA event at Conservative Party conference in October hosted by its director-general Mark Littlewood, Baker said much climate science is “contested” and is “sometimes propagandised”.
A 2018 Greenpeace Unearthed investigation revealed that the IEA had taken funding from British oil company BP every year since 1967. IEA director Mark Littlewood has described the UK government’s climate policies as too expensive and ineffective and its head of policy Matthew Lesh has likened the government’s green policies to a “Soviet Five Year Plan”.
Reliance on Fossil Fuels
Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer is concerned by the NZSG’s calls for more investment in oil and gas.
“It is our reliance on fossil fuels that have stopped us from taking the necessary action so far which would have any impact on Putin,” she said.
“We must be doing everything we can now to massively ramp up our installation of renewable energy sources before next winter.”
“To deliberately increase our reliance on fossil fuels at this time would not only seriously impact our efforts to tackle climate change, it would leave us even more exposed to the whims of dictators and tyrannous individuals seeking to exploit such frailties now and in the future.”
Steve Baker, Neil Record, the GWPF and the IEA did not respond when contacted for comment.
Updated on 11/3/22 to remove an incorrect statement that Graham Stringer MP, a GWPF trustee, has been publicly named as an NZSG member.