The new UK Prime Minister has appointed multiple advisors with a record of opposing climate action, including a key aide from a think tank funded by oil giant BP.
Liz Truss’s team – who will advise her through the energy crisis – includes staff who have worked for anti-net zero politicians and opaquely-funded climate sceptic think tanks. Others have attacked climate policies and blamed high energy bills on renewable power.
Truss, who is seeking to restart fracking and expand North Sea drilling despite a pledge to maintain the UK’s net zero target, has a long history of working with libertarian groups opposed to climate action.
Green campaigners have also expressed concerns about Truss’s appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg as energy minister given his record of rejecting climate science.
“In week one of the Liz Truss premiership, we’ve seen the fracking ban reversed, new oil and gas fields approved and green levies scrapped”, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas told DeSmog. “These climate-wrecking policies won’t help our efforts to tackle the cost of living scandal and the energy crisis, they’ll totally undermine them.
“Climate sceptic and delaying advisors who fail to grasp this simple truth should be nowhere near the prime minister’s top team.”
BP-Funded Think Tank
Ruth Porter, who will be Truss’s senior special advisor and ran her election campaign, was communications director from 2010 to 2013 at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), an influential anti-regulation think tank with a record of opposing climate policies.
A 2018 investigation by Greenpeace Unearthed revealed that the IEA had received funding from oil giant BP every year since 1967.
BP did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether the company still donates to the group. The IEA declined to comment on BP funding, referring DeSmog to the “who funds you” section on its website, which does not name donors.
Porter wrote articles in 2011 supporting economic “austerity” and urging then Prime Minister David Cameron, who went on to “cut the green crap”, not to be “timid” about cuts to government spending.
She has blamed previous energy bill rises on renewables. In 2012 she tweeted that “climate change policies are pushing up domestic gas & elec prices” and wrote a Telegraph article that year headlined “Green policies are costing Britons the earth” making the same point and citing IEA research.
Today’s high energy prices are caused by a spike in the wholesale cost of gas, and have been made worse by a failure to invest more heavily in renewable energy and home insulation.
Another tie to the IEA comes through Truss’s new chief of staff, Mark Fullbrook, a longtime colleague of the Australian political strategist, Lynton Crosby. According to the Guardian, Sir Michael Hintze — an IEA trustee and donor to the GWPF — has sat on the advisory board of his lobbying firm, Fullbrook Strategies, launched earlier this year.
Truss has a long association with the IEA. Its director Mark Littlewood, who studied at Oxford University with Truss, this week said the new PM had spoken at more IEA events “than any other politician over the past 12 years”.
In 2011, shortly after becoming an MP, Truss set up the think tank’s “parliamentary wing”, the Free Enterprise Group, and in 2019 hired the IEA’s then head of communications as her media advisor.
During the leadership contest, Truss defended her tax plans by citing economist Patrick Minford, an IEA trustee who has institutional connections to the climate science-denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Neil Record, chair of the IEA, is also chair of the GWPF’s campaign wing Net Zero Watch.
‘Let Them Eat Carbon’
Matthew Sinclair, who will be Truss’s chief economic advisor, wrote a book in 2011 called “Let Them Eat Carbon”, which criticised efforts to cut emissions, claiming they were unlikely to work and gave money to “special interests”. In the book he said climate policies would “push up electricity bills”, according to the Guardian.
In a Wall Street Journal article of the same title that year, Sinclair called solar power “comically expensive and ill-judged in cloud-drenched Britain”, adding that “onshore wind energy faces geographic limitations and local resistance”. Sinclair campaigned against green taxes in senior roles at the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group from 2008 to 2013.
In 2016, he blamed high energy prices on solar and wind power, saying on Twitter: “This is how UK climate policy works. Huge investment in renewables etc -> higher profits -> higher prices.”
He has also expressed doubts about climate science, tweeting in 2014: “I miss all those crazy articles about why we should fear climate change (burning too much) and peak oil (not enough to burn).”
Sinclair’s appointment was welcomed in the Telegraph by Andrew Lilico, a former colleague who is on the IEA’s academic advisory board.
Anti-Net Zero Links
Christopher Jenkins, who will advise Truss on legal and constitutional issues, previously worked as an advisor to Lord David Frost, the former Brexit negotiator who has become a leading critic of climate policies.
Lord Frost is a high-profile supporter of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG), an anti-green faction in parliament allied to the GWPF.
Since 2020, Jenkins has been a special advisor to Attorney General Suella Braverman, who ran for Tory leader this year vowing to “suspend” the UK’s net zero target, and who Truss has appointed as Home Secretary.
Truss aide Sophie Jarvis, who will serve as her political secretary, was head of government affairs from 2018 to 2019 at the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), another libertarian think tank that has previously published articles casting doubt on climate science and calling solar power an “impossible dream.” Liz Truss has also given speeches to the ASI.
Number 10 and Truss’s advisors did not respond when contacted for comment.
A spokesperson for the IEA said the think tank “has no corporate view on climate change, green policies, the UK’s Net Zero target or any policy question” and that it was wrong for critics “on the left” to assume support for free markets means “a fixed set of remedies and stances”.
They said liberalising planning laws would apply to “all forms of energy supply – fracking, nuclear, solar and wind”, adding that “IEA authors tend to prefer carbon prices to carbon budgets”, and “support for domestic drilling is rooted in fossil fuel import substitution not hostility to the development of alternatives”.
Additional research by Christopher Deane.
Updated 17/09/2022 to clarify that it is unknown whether Sir Michael Hintze still advises Fullbrook Strategies.