A Conservative MP leading a backbench revolt against UK climate policy has endorsed a report calling for renewable energy to be “wound down” completely.
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, who chairs the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) in parliament, is quoted in the press release for the report Taking Back Control: Addressing Britain’s Energy Crisis, which was released over the weekend and covered in the Telegraph newspaper.
The report was produced by Net Zero Watch (NZW), the campaigning wing of climate science denial thinktank the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which Mackinlay’s group is working with to oppose green policies. Its authors are not climate scientists and have campaigned against renewable energy.
The NZW report falsely blames renewable power for high energy bills. It calls for “rapid” extraction of oil and gas, the return of shale gas extraction – known as fracking – keeping coal-fired power stations open, and the phaseout of renewable energy from sun and wind.
It says: “Renewables must be put on the same footing as other generators, with no subsidies and no preferential dispatch, and eventually wound down.”
Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP called the NZW report “an incoherent jumble of climate denialism, fake news and truth-twisting”, while energy expert Richard Black said it was “shaming” that an MP would put their name to it.
It comes ahead of the government unveiling its new “energy strategy”, which is likely to include support for a large expansion of wind and solar energy. The UK has pledged to decarbonise its electricity grid by 2035 on its way to cutting emissions to net zero by 2050.
The IPCC recently called for “deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions”, warning of “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.
This week Mackinlay claimed the NSZG’s membership had increased to 58 MPs, though only 20 members — 19 MPs and one member of the House of Lords — have been named. The pro-green Conservative Environment Network, meanwhile, has grown to 133 named MPs — half of all Tory backbenchers — plus 17 peers.
While Mackinlay’s parliamentary group claims to accept climate science, DeSmog has revealed its strong institutional ties with climate science denial groups, primarily the GWPF.
NZW head of policy Harry Wilkinson currently works for Mackinlay as a parliamentary aide, while the group’s deputy chairman, Steve Baker MP, recently received £5,000 from Neil Record, chair of the GWPF and NZW.
Fossil Fuels and No Renewables
The NZW report urges the “rapid and proactive development of all domestic fossil fuel supplies, particularly gas and oil in the North Sea”, overturning the 2019 ban on fracking for shale gas, and keeping the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations open for “ultra-supercritical coal” if plans for nuclear energy fall behind schedule.
The press release says the NZW plan “aims to wind down renewables completely”.
Mackinlay’s quote endorses the report’s promotion of gas and nuclear energy. It said: “Britain’s energy policy is clearly in a perilous state, and we need some bold solutions to get back on track. Affordability and reliability must be paramount. A gas-to-nuclear transition looks to me at present like our best shot to get our emissions down affordably.”
Mackinlay has repeatedly criticised renewable energy in articles and media appearances. In January he wrote a Times article falsely claiming renewable energy had caused “the doubling of electricity prices between 2002 and 2021”. New renewable energy is in fact increasingly cheap and green policies would help cut energy bills, while the current increase in energy costs is caused by rising wholesale gas prices.
Craig Mackinlay and Net Zero Watch did not respond when contacted for comment.
The Telegraph’s coverage of the NZW report, which quoted Constable, did not mention its call for phasing out renewable energy.
Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP told DeSmog: “This report is an incoherent jumble of climate denialism, fake news and truth-twisting.
“I’m not sure what shocks me most – from the frankly laughable claims that we need to ‘wind down renewables completely’, to the outrageous suggestion that ‘reintroducing coal is almost certainly going to be necessary’.”
She added: “What’s most damning is how Tories like Craig Mackinlay, whose party of government is currently dithering over an Energy Security Strategy which could make or break our climate progress, are at the very heart of it.
“Reports like this should be buried deep in the ground, right alongside the fossil fuels they revere.”
The report’s authors, NZW director of energy John Constable and NZW deputy director Andrew Montford, have no qualifications relevant to climate science or energy policy. Constable has a PhD in English while Montford has a degree in Chemistry and is a registered accountant.
But Constable has long campaigned against wind farms and solar panels. Last summer he wrote a GWPF report opposing solar panel farms being built on agricultural land. Before his role at the GWPF, Constable was director of policy and research at the Renewable Energy Foundation, an anti-wind energy campaign.
Last year Montford wrote in a Spectator article: “As I watch the snow blow past my window, it’s hard not to scoff at the idea of a ‘climate emergency’.”
“The utter incoherence of Net Zero Watch’s ‘plan’ is really something”, said Richard Black, an honorary research fellow at Imperial College London and a former BBC environment correspondent.
“They want new nuclear and super-critical coal-fired power stations, but they don’t want subsidies. Best of luck with that. They say ‘cheap gas’ is the way forward, when the gas price is set by the international market. So how, pray tell, is it to be made cheap?”
He added: “It’s faintly shaming on the nation that any MP would have so little clue about the realities of energy, and be so unaware of his own ignorance, as to put his name to this.”
Wera Hobhouse MP, energy spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It’s deeply disappointing that some Conservative MPs are letting their climate denialism cloud their judgment on this.
“They would rather see their constituents’ bills rise if it means they can claim a win in their war against ‘net zero’, instead of delivering cheap bills by expanding renewable energy production and retrofitting our homes.”