A rising star in the contest for a new Prime Minister who has vowed to scrap the UK’s net zero target received a £1,000 gift from a funder of the UK’s main climate science denial group.
Tory leadership candidate Kemi Badenoch, a junior minister in the department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, received £1,000 from Michael Hintze for a ticket to a Conservative Party fundraiser in November, according to the register of interests.
DeSmog can also report that three other Tory leadership candidates – Suella Braverman, Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt – have links to climate science deniers.
Hintze has given £4.7 million to Conservative causes, including £50,000 to the party in November, and gave £100,000 to Vote Leave, according to the Sunday Times. Badenoch is the only MP to have a ticket to the lavish fundraiser paid for by Hintze, according to the register.
Badenoch is one of the most outspoken critics of the UK’s 2050 net zero target in the leadership contest, calling it “unilateral economic disarmament”. She maintains “it was wrong of us to set a target without having a clear plan of the cost and knowing what it would entail”.
She claims to “believe in climate change” but said “there is a better way of going about these things.”
Ed Miliband MP, Labour’s Shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary, told DeSmog: “Any Conservative leadership candidate engaging in climate denial or taking money from climate deniers must explain to the British people why they oppose action that will cut energy bills and deliver energy security for our country.”
In 2012, The Guardian reported that Hintze had made reference in an email to his financial support of the GWPF, saying he was “fully committed” and was “supporting Nigel Lawson’s initiative”.
The GWPF, founded by former chancellor Lord Lawson in 2009, is working with MPs to campaign against net zero. In April, the GWPF published a paper claiming that there is “no evidence of a climate crisis”. Its campaign arm, Net Zero Watch, published a report in March calling for “rapid” development of oil and gas and a “complete” phaseout of renewable energy.
Badenoch’s position on net zero appears to have hardened. In September 2021 – two months before the Hintze gift – she hailed the UK as the “first major economy to legislate to end our net contribution to climate change by 2050”. Her leadership bid has also been endorsed by Michael Gove, who has been supportive of green policies, though his promise of a “green Brexit” has been criticised by environmental groups.
“The blunt truth is that the Conservative Party simply can’t be trusted on the environment”, said Wera Hobhouse MP, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson. “Kemi Badenoch taking money from climate deniers shows she won’t safeguard Britain’s environment as Prime Minister.
“Conservative MPs are talking about digging up our countryside for fracking, instead of building more renewables they are planning on extracting more oil and gas from the North Sea. It makes you think about whose interests they’re acting in.”
She called on Badenoch to “come clean on if she truly believes in climate change”, adding: “We can’t have a climate change denier in Downing Street.”
Badenoch is not the only candidate opposing net zero with climate denial links. Attorney General Suella Braverman has vowed to “suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve Net Zero by 2050”. Her campaign is being run by the leading opponent of net zero in parliament, Steve Baker MP, a trustee of the GWPF and deputy chair of its allies in parliament the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG).
Baker spoke at a GWPF event last week, where he reportedly accused climate campaigners of “terrifying children” and called their warnings “child abuse”. This week, he re-launched libertarian think tank Conservative Way Forward with funding from the chair of the GWPF’s campaign arm.
Braverman’s head of communications, David Scullion, is deputy political editor of The Critic magazine, which has published several articles by NZSG chair Craig Mackinlay attacking climate action. It also ran a podcast episode titled “Is net zero achievable?” featuring Baker and Scullion. The Critic has received funding from Tory donor Jeremy Hosking, who has millions invested in fossil fuels, according to Open Democracy.
“Opposing net zero is fantasy economics that will damage jobs and prosperity”, Miliband said. “It means we will fail to invest in cheap power to cut bills, that we will lose the race for the industries of the future, and that we will lumber future generations with the enormous costs of the climate crisis.”
Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt
Penny Mordaunt, considered a “moderate” candidate for leader, also has some links to the GWPF. Ahead of the 2019 election, she received a £3,000 donation from Hintze. And between 2019 and 2021, Mordaunt received £20,000 from First Corporate Consultants, a management consultancy founded by Terence Mordaunt, the GWPF’s then-chair. It is unclear whether the two are related.
This week, Mordaunt welcomed the endorsement of motoring lobbyist Howard Cox, tweeting that she was “glad to have the backing” of his FairFuelUK campaign, and pledging an “immediate” 50p cut in VAT on fuel. Cox said in his endorsement that he had known Mordaunt for 12 years and called her a “kindred spirit”.
Cox – whose group is funded by the Road Haulage Association – has downplayed what he calls “alleged man-made causes” of climate change and questioned whether it is linked to extreme weather. He runs an All-Party Parliamentary Group with NZSG chair Mackinlay. Last year he wrote a report with the GWPF for the group criticising electric vehicles and opposing the UK’s phaseout of petrol and diesel cars.
Another candidate, Jeremy Hunt, received a £25,000 donation from Terence Mordaunt in his 2019 bid to become leader, as did his opponent Boris Johnson. Hunt has said he would keep the UK’s net zero target, but has also said he would make Esther McVey MP, a NZSG member and critic of green policies, his deputy prime minister.
“The fact there are Conservative leadership candidates with such links to climate denial groups should worry us all”, said Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer.
“While Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman may not be the front runners in the Tory leadership contest, there are some extremely worrying narratives emerging that suggest all of the candidates are willing to sacrifice the climate commitments they were elected on in 2019.”
She added that “the climate and our environment are simply not safe in Conservative hands” and called for a general election “so the public have the opportunity to vote for proper climate action which will improve the lives of both people and planet”.
Badenoch, Braverman and Mordaunt did not respond when contacted for comment. Jeremy Hunt has also been contacted for comment.