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Nigel Lawson, Founder of Tufton St. Climate Denial Group, Quits Parliament

Greens welcome departure of “denier-in-chief” who founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation and sits on the board of Net Zero Watch.
Adam Barnett - new white crop
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GWPF Founder Lord Lawson
GWPF Founder and Net Zero Watch Board Member Lord Lawson. Credit: Chatham House, CC BY 2.0

The founder and honorary president of the Global Warming Policy Foundation has announced he will be retiring from parliament. 

Lord Nigel Lawson, who was chancellor under Margaret Thatcher, is leaving the House of Lords, according to the Telegraph

The newspaper – which regularly runs columns attacking climate action – notes Lawson’s pivotal role in the official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, during the 2016 EU referendum. 

The article neglects to  mention that Lawson also set up the influential Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) think tank, a major source of climate science denial and unwavering supporter of fossil fuels. 

Lawson claimed that “global warming is not a problem” as recently as 2021, in an article written for the Spectator magazine during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. 

His piece also defended the continued burning of fossil fuels, claimed decarbonisation would be an “unparalleled economic calamity”, and said plant growth was the “principal effect” of carbon dioxide.

The UN has identified misinformation that undermines climate science – like some of these messages put out by Lawson – as a key blocker to action to bring down carbon emissions. A 2022 report described how such rhetoric results in “public misperception of climate risks”, polarises public opinion and delays effective policy.

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay told DeSmog: “Nigel Lawson is the climate denier-in-chief. He should not only leave the Lords but park his views on climate change where no one can see or hear them.  

“His dubious Global Warming Policy Foundation is just one of the dangerous far-right lobby groups working out of 55 Tufton Street. With the planet facing climate chaos, charitable funds must never be used to subsidise those who undermine climate science or seek to weaken action to address the climate crisis.”   

Climate Denial Founder

Lawson founded the GWPF in 2009 and remains its honorary president, since stepping down as chair in January 2019. 

He is also on the board of the think tank’s political arm, the Global Warming Policy Forum, which since 2021 has campaigned as Net Zero Watch

Lawson’s departure will still leave several climate sceptic peers in the House of Lords, including former GWPF trustees Peter Lilley and Charles Moore, GWPF advisory board member Matt Ridley, and outspoken climate sceptics Claire Fox and Anne Widdecombe. Australian billionaire and Conservative Party donor Michael Hintze, one of the few known funders of the GWPF, was made a Tory peer for life in October. Lord David Frost joined the GWPF’s board of trustees in November.

The GWPF is famously secretive about its sources of funding. The Charity Commission is currently reviewing a complaint by lawyers and MPs about the think tank’s charitable status.

DeSmog has reported on the GWPF’s extensive ties to the campaign by backbenchers to oppose the UK’s target to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 – the so-called Net Zero Scrutiny Group of MPs – and to increase its reliance on fossil fuels, including by fracking for shale gas. 

GWPF Record

The GWPF continues to spread climate science denial. In September, it published two papers rejecting climate science on the greenhouse effect. In April, the group released a paper claiming there is “no evidence of a climate crisis”. 

Last week the group was accused of misrepresenting a mainstream study on climate science by the report’s authors. 

The GWPF’s campaign arm Net Zero Watch has consistently attacked climate policies and renewable energy and pushed for more fossil fuel extraction. In October, Net Zero Watch urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels” and called for “a new fleet of coal-fired power plants”. 

In March 2022, Net Zero Watch called for a “rapid” expansion of oil and gas, and for renewable energy from wind and solar power to be “wound down completely”. 

The GWPF’s office is in 55 Tufton Street, home to a network of right-wing groups with a record of opposing climate action. 

The address became better known last year for its association with the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), though the libertarian think thank is actually based in a different, nearby street. The IEA – which has received funding from BP – was widely credited with inspiring Liz Truss’s September mini-budget, which cost the economy an estimated £30 billion, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank. 

Lawson has been contacted for comment but has not responded at time of publication. 

UPDATE 16/01/23 to include Lord David Frost joining the GWPF board of trustees.

Adam Barnett - new white crop
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.

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