The UK’s new climate minister has pulled out of an event hosting two of the world’s most prominent climate science deniers, DeSmog can reveal.
Graham Stuart MP was listed as a keynote speaker on Tuesday at the four-day Global Investment in Sustainable Development conference in London, hosted by the CC Forum, a company which touts itself as the “green Davos”.
His speech would have been followed by a debate about global warming featuring Christopher Monckton, who has a history of promoting climate science denial, and Marc Morano, a prominent U.S. climate science denial activist.
However, when contacted by DeSmog, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said Stuart would no longer be attending the event, and that he was not told who else would be on the bill when he agreed to speak.
The reason for his cancelling was not immediately clear. While BEIS referred to other speakers, conference organisers said Stuart’s team had cited “unforeseen urgent government business” for his decision to withdraw. Stuart did not respond when contacted for comment.
Stuart defended the government’s support for almost 100 new licences for oil and gas drilling this week, telling a panel of MPs that domestic production is “good for the environment” because it creates fewer emissions than importing oil and gas.
“This government, which still holds the COP Presidency, continues to share the stage with individuals and organisations that are undermining national and global attempts to tackle the climate crisis, despite UK citizens being shown to be committed to more urgent action”, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer told DeSmog.
“We’ve had the Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg opening up the North Sea to further exploration by fossil fuel corporations and now the Minister supposedly appointed to counter Rees-Mogg’s climate scepticism speaking at a conference that is welcoming climate sceptics.
“We need a government that understands the actions needed to reach net zero.”
Climate Science Deniers
The minister’s speech at the CC Forum event was to be followed by a “VIP Networking Lunch”, and then a debate titled “Is Global Warming the World’s Most Pressing Problem?”, according to the online programme.
The debate will feature Marc Morano, an American activist who Greenpeace once dubbed a “central cell of the climate denial machine”, and Christopher Monckton, a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, who in 2010 led Tea Party crowds in the U.S. in a call and response chant of “Global warming is?”, with the crowd shouting “Bullshit!”.
Morano runs the climate science denial website Climate Depot and Director of Communications at the think tank CFACT, which has received funding from Exxon Mobil and Chevron.
He is one of the world’s most aggressive climate science deniers, known for attacking individual scientists along with the scientific consensus on climate change. Morano has said that climate scientists deserve to be “publicly flogged” and for years he made a habit of publishing the email addresses of climate scientists.
Before joining CFACT in 2009, Morano worked for conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and was a staffer for Senator James Inhofe, who told Congress that “manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”
Monckton is also due to give a keynote address on Tuesday – the day the climate minister had been scheduled to speak – titled “Do We Need to Mitigate Climate Change and Can We Actually Afford It?”.
After DeSmog raised Morano and Monckton’s involvement with BEIS, Stuart’s speech – the topic of which was listed as “TBD”, or to be determined – was removed from the online programme on Thursday night, though it is still available in an archived version and in screenshots.
BEIS had initially declined to say whether Stuart was ever booked to speak at the event, telling DeSmog simply that “the minister is not attending this event”.
But the organiser, CC Forum CEO and founder Max Studennikoff, told DeSmog that Stuart’s office had confirmed by email as recently as Wednesday that the minister would speak at the event.
When DeSmog made further inquiries, BEIS then appeared to link Stuart’s decision to withdraw to his not knowing who else was booked for the event when he agreed to speak – an apparent reference to Morano and Monckton.
Yet on Thursday night, after DeSmog’s inquiries, Studennikoff says he received an email from Stuart’s office which said: “I regret to inform you that due to unforeseen urgent government business the minister will no longer be able to take part in this event next week. Please accept our apologies.”
DeSmog asked BEIS for clarification, but had not heard back by the time of publication.
One Conservative peer, Lord Nat Wei of Shoreditch, an entrepreneur who advised the David Cameron government, has confirmed that he will attend the conference, and defended the debate with Morano and Monckton on free speech grounds.
“My understanding is that this [the event with Morano] is a debate being organised between those who are sceptics and those who believe climate change is real”, he told DeSmog. “I’m personally on the latter side though I am not in the debate.”
He added: “You can’t have a debate if you don’t invite people with different opinions to discuss their differences. It’s part of being in a free society.”
Lord Wei is scheduled to speak on a panel called “Are Fossil Fuels Regaining Their Grounds? The Short-Term and the Long-Term Implications of the Energy Crisis” and give a keynote speech about “The Importance of Financing Innovation for Solving Climate Change”.
Another peer, Lord Marland of Odstock, who was a climate change minister under Cameron, is billed to give a keynote speech on Tuesday titled “Energy Security through Sustainable Investment”. He did not respond when contacted for comment.
The conference will close with a “Networking Luncheon” at the House of Lords on Thursday.
Dr Aaron Thierry, a graduate student at the Cardiff University School of Social Sciences, publicly withdrew from the CC Forum over the involvement of Morano and Monckton, who he said are “infamous for spreading climate disinformation”.
“Given the immense stakes and need for immediate climate action, I cannot in good conscience lend legitimacy to an event that would profile grifters who knowingly shill for fossil fuel polluters, even as millions have their lives and livelihoods destroyed by climate impacts,” he said on Twitter.
CC Forum’s Studennikoff, who will moderate the debate with Morano and Monckton, defended the conference, which he said was being held to “reaffirm the role of the UK as a leader in green energy transition”.
In a written statement, he told DeSmog: “To enable a transparent dialogue, we welcome speakers with various opinions, sometimes polar opposite.
“As part of our brainstorming sessions, we intend to give [the] stage to two speakers who have been known as climate sceptics with the view of (sic) publicly debunking their arguments in a public debate on stage, as we firmly believe that any attempt to shut down such a debate would constitute an affront to free speech.”
Studennikoff added that CC Forum is “purely [an] investment forum” and has been “entirely apolitical”, because he believes “in the power of private wealth more than in policy making”.
Truss’s first speech as prime minister at the Conservative Party conference last week was interrupted by two Greenpeace campaigners who held a banner that read “Who voted for this?” and were forcibly ejected from the hall.
Truss reportedly asked King Charles not to attend COP27, the UN climate summit in Egypt in November. Her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, held secret meetings with Saudi Aramco earlier this year, the Guardian revealed this week.
Truss’s leadership contest was partly funded by Lord Nigel Vinson, who has funded the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s main climate science denial group, which campaigns as Net Zero Watch.
She also received donations from climate science denier Lance Forman and donors from pro-fracking groups.