The leadership campaign of the UK’s new prime minister was partly funded by individuals involved in influential pro-fracking think tanks and a former Brexit Party MEP who has called climate change a “myth” and a “religion”.
Two days after taking office, Truss gave the green light for new fracking projects, putting her at odds with the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto pledge and preempting a much-awaited report by the British Geological Survey on the safety of fracking.
The party said it would not support the controversial technology until it is shown “categorically” that the process can be done safely, something that has yet to happen.
A total of £30,000 was given by individuals who steer an influential Tory-aligned group pushing for fracking to be restarted and which recently suggested that the UK’s climate targets could be watered down in favour of “energy security and affordability”.
Support for transport costs was also provided by the trustee of an Exxon-backed think tank that has proposed fracking across Europe as a partial solution to the ongoing energy crisis.
Lance Forman, a former Brexit Party politician who has repeatedly dismissed the science on climate change and has also been campaigning for a revival of fracking in the UK, donated £10,000 through his luxury smoked salmon business.
The gifts are in addition to £100,000 provided by the wife of a former executive at oil giant BP, the single largest donation. A total of £424,000 was raised for the campaign.
The donations were recorded in the latest edition of the register of MPs’ interests, released on Thursday.
Links to Pro-Fracking Groups
Jon Moynihan and Barbara Yerolemou, who both sit on the advisory council of the Free Market Forum (FMF), an “initiative” of the BP-funded Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, donated £20,000 and £10,000 to Truss’s campaign, respectively.
In June, the FMF called on the government to lift its moratorium on fracking and set a more “realistic” limit on earth tremors caused by drilling projects – recommendations that were welcomed by the industry.
During the Tory leadership race, the organisation suggested candidates might want to consider amending the UK’s climate legislation to “prioritise energy security and affordability over the climate target”.
In the same briefing, the FMF criticised government support for green measures, including “state-sponsored insulation [of buildings]”, arguing that “pragmatists are technology neutral”.
The Forum has the support of over 60 MPs and peers, including Liz Truss and five recently appointed cabinet members, including Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey, International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, and Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke.
Another donation worth £5,127 to cover the Truss campaign’s transport costs was made by Andrew Law, a trustee at the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, which he supports financially through a family charity.
Policy Exchange has been criticised for allegedly providing the inspiration for the recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which was brought in to allow the government to crack down more heavily on environmental protest in the UK.
In May 2022, Policy Exchange suggested that “European countries might be more successful in persuading their communities” to accept fracking, as a way of reducing Europe’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels.
However, the group said fracking was unlikely to go ahead in the UK, as this would “spend huge political capital for not much gas”.
Both the FMF and Policy Exchange have backed further North Sea oil and gas extraction, a call Truss has apparently heeded, with more than a hundred new drilling licences due to be issued in the near future.
Both organisations have received donations from fossil fuel companies operating in the area.
Policy Exchange received £25,900 in funding from US oil giant ExxonMobil in 2017 through its U.S. fundraising arm.
FMF is described as an “initiative” of the Institute of Economic Affairs, an influential free-market think tank that admitted in 2018 to have received funding from oil company BP annually since 1967.
Moynihan is a former trustee of the think tank, and also chaired the Initiative for Free Trade, a pressure group set up by Brexit-backing Conservative peer, Daniel Hannan. In 2018, the group launched a “blueprint” for a free trade deal between the UK and the U.S., in partnership with the fossil-fuel funded U.S. think tank the Cato Institute, calling for the removal of environmental regulations, such as around pesticides.
Climate Science Denial
Lance Forman, who represented the Brexit Party in the European Parliament in the final months of the UK’s membership of the bloc, donated £10,000 via his East London company, Smoked Salmon.
Forman, who has almost 25,000 followers on Twitter, regularly uses the platform to question climate change. In 2018, Lance tweeted, “Climate change is a myth. Political Climate change is the real danger. PC will kill us all off before suntans”.
Earlier this week, Forman responded to a tweet about Truss failing to mention climate change in her first Prime Minister’s speech by saying “there is no emergency”.
“The only climate emergency is the emergency in energy supply clauses [sic] by climate net zero nutters who have led us down this path to insufficient supply.”
In recent weeks, Forman has also tweeted that more people die of cold than heat “so a warming planet is beneficial”. He also posted a message saying: “Sitting in the sun. Sipping wine. If this is climate change – bring it on!”
On another occasion, he said the Times newspaper was “p***ing [him] off” with a headline about flooding being made more likely by climate change, writing “It’s the bloody monsoon season. It happens every year. 2010 was worse than this year. The climate always changes.”
Following the 2015 Paris Agreement, Forman wrote an article in the Newham Recorder saying “climate change belief” was “no different to religion”.
“…if there is to be climate change, why focus on the negative? The drying up of the Dead Sea in recent decades has led to a partnership by former enemies, Jordan and Israel, to create a joint project to rehydrate it. Climate change in this situation has been a force for peace and for good,” he added.
The day of the Conservative leadership election, Forman tweeted at Liz Truss saying that she should “proceed with fracking urgently and we don’t have time to debate it in local communities.”
Forman has also worked with climate science denial groups CAR26 and Turning Point UK.
In January 2022, Forman spoke at CAR26’s first online “forum”. The group was formed ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and has been calling for a national referendum on the UK’s net zero target. Its director, Lois Perry, has called climate change a “scam”.
Earlier in the year, CAR26 launched a petition requesting that the government “end the ban on fracking”. In June, then Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng responded by saying that the government “does not agree we should lift the pause on hydraulic fracturing at this time given the lack of new, compelling evidence that shale gas extraction can be done safely”.
In 2019, Forman hosted a meeting for Turning Point UK at his restaurant. The group is a spin-off of a Donald Trump-backing U.S. organisation, which has said that NASA scientists are “wrong about climate change” and been plagued by incidents of racism. Forman defended the decision to host the event stating: “I believe strongly in free speech.”
In the days since Truss became prime minister, Forman celebrated her success and the appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has a long history of dismissing climate change, as business and energy secretary, highlighting Rees-Mogg’s support for fracking in particular.
Forman told DeSmog that climate change was “not a myth” because the climate was “always changing”, contradicting his earlier statement.
“Net zero policy has enabled Putin’s exploitation of Europe’s lack of energy independence. I am delighted to see that European countries are now realising the error of their ways and going for a more balanced energy policy.”
The current energy crisis is principally caused by the high price of gas, with renewable energy and green measures such as insulation cutting energy bills.
The Conservative Party and the other donors named in this article have all been contacted for comment.