A climate science denial group campaigning against the UK’s green policies has close ties to a right-wing businessman who backed Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, DeSmog can reveal.
CAR26, which launched in October with a call for a referendum on the UK’s net zero target, is run by Lois Perry, a regular guest on GB News and talkRADIO who has used Russia’s war to argue that the UK should extract more fossil fuels.
Perry has close ties to John Mappin, a wealthy hotelier and former business associate of Nigel Farage, who tweeted at the start of the war that he stands with the “Russian Bear” and called Putin’s invasion of Ukraine a “gift for the freedom of the world”. Russia has been accused of multiple atrocities against civilians since the beginning of the war.
The Mappin link is the latest revelation about the key figures involved in the co-ordinated campaign to overturn the UK’s 2050 net zero goal.
Mappin appears to be a keen supporter of CAR26. In May, Mappin tweeted a photo of himself with Perry at a party in Chelsea, London, describing her as “CAR26 founder and mastermind”.
He is also “old friends” with Perry’s former husband and business partner, Richard Hillgrove, a PR executive who is also involved in one of CAR26’s campaigns. Perry and Hillgrove, who was convicted for tax fraud in 2014, co-founded 6 Hillgrove PR, which has worked with clients including Julian Assange, the National Lottery and the Big Issue. Perry was named as an associate on the consultancy’s website until at least December but no longer appears there.
In April, Mappin hosted Hillgrove at his Camelot Castle hotel in Cornwall and praised him as a “genius” with an “amazing mind”.
Responding to the news, Sean Buchan of campaign group Stop Funding Heat said: “CAR26 is already known to promote denial of climate change science, but these revelations show just how deep into denial their networks go”.
“The fact that GB News and talkRADIO regularly platform this group, or those with connections to it, again highlights the role of parts of our media in worsening the climate crisis.”
Łukasz Janulewicz, an analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) think tank, said the ties between Mappin and CAR26 fit a pattern of conspiracy theorists and “culture war” figures increasingly moving into climate science denial.
CAR26 and John Mappin
CAR26 presents itself as a mainstream group advocating “informed rational analysis of climate matters”. The Telegraph has amplified its net zero referendum campaign and Perry regularly appears on conservative media.
Yet CAR26 has questioned the role of carbon dioxide in causing global heating, and Perry was filmed in Glasgow during the COP26 summit shouting that the public was being “conned” about climate change.
The group has argued that the UK should exploit more of its fossil fuels since Russia invaded Ukraine. For example, in a February petition it urged the UK government to lift its ban on fracking for shale gas, citing the “Russia/Ukraine crisis”. Last week, a petition to overturn the ban started by Perry was rejected by the UK government.
At the start of the war, Mappin tweeted: “Those who love freedom have a duty to back [Vladimir Putin] up. It is so important that the deep state’s Nazi collaborators are fully confronted.” He has since deleted the tweets, but continues to post pro-Kremlin content.
John Mappin did not respond when contacted for comment. In March, after criticism of his remarks about Russia, Mappin tweeted: “Neither I nor anyone in my immediate or even distant circle is pro-war or pro anything or anyone whose actions do not lead to the least probability of nuclear war and least unnecessary suffering of the world’s populations.”
6 Hillgrove PR, co-founded by Perry and Hillgrove, is listed as the contact for a “Black Cabs Matter” campaign run by CAR26 to oppose green transport policies in London, supported by Conservative Assembly member Keith Prince and former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik.
Some former Hillgrove clients, including Vivienne Westwood, the environmentalist fashion designer, distanced themselves from the agency in October after DeSmog reported Perry’s views on climate change.
Hillgrove’s personal YouTube account hosts several of Perry’s media appearances discussing net zero and he has personally expressed opposition to climate policies, telling a talkRADIO host in March: “The net zero emissions thing kind of needs to be thrown out the window.”
Associate of Nigel Farage
Mappin has a history of right-wing politics. In 2019, he helped launch Turning Point UK, a right-wing student network inspired by a pro-Trump US youth group.
Mappin has also had business ties to former UKIP leader and GB News host Nigel Farage, who took up CAR26’s call earlier this year for a Brexit-style referendum on net zero policies. Farage launched a campaign of his own with Richard Tice, who co-founded the Leave.EU group alongside businessman Arron Banks and now leads the Reform UK party as well as hosting a show on Rupert Murdoch-owned talkRADIO.
Mappin brought in Farage as chair of the advisory board of Dutch Green Business (DGB), a carbon offset consultancy in which Mappin and his wife owned a 30 percent stake, in March 2021, according to the Financial Times. Farage was estimated to be in line to earn €18.5 million (£15.7 million) from share options in the company.
However, Mappin has reportedly since fallen out with the firm, which says it has “no relationship whatsoever with the Mappin family”, and Farage says his involvement in DGB is “in abeyance”.
Last month, Mappin hosted David Kurten, the “inspiring” leader of the fringe Heritage Party, which claims “human activity contributes very little towards global warming” and calls the UK’s net zero goal “scientifically spurious and economically insane” in its manifesto.
Mappin also runs an online “Camelot TV” station, which has broadcast interviews with the former Labour leader’s brother Piers Corbyn, a fellow anti-vaxxer and climate science denier, and Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox, who has campaigned fiercely against low traffic neighbourhood schemes. CAR26’s Lois Perry protested alongside Corbyn at COP26 and is the South East representative of Reclaim. Fox also appeared on a CAR26 panel at the James Delingpole event Mappin promoted on Twitter.
Denial and Delay ‘Playbook’
Łukasz Janulewicz, from ISD, said: “Our recent report documents how enmeshing climate change with conspiracy theories and the culture wars has become a key tactic of mis and disinformation to distract from and delay climate action.
“The support for CAR26’s positions combined with conspiracies about vaccines fits into this playbook we have seen used widely, for example around the COP26 summit.”
He added that the media platform given to CAR26 “has been key to their influence efforts”.
Richard Hillgrove declined to comment on his relationship with John Mappin. Instead, he told DeSmog that he and Perry divorced in 2016, and when asked if she was still an associate at his consultancy, said: “6 Hillgrove PR works with everyone.” When asked for further clarification, Hillgrove replied by emailing two photographs of himself.
Lois Perry did not respond when contacted for comment.