A minister in Rishi Sunak’s government who has been a fierce opponent of climate action received £10,000 from the chair of the UK’s main climate science denial group last month.
Wycombe MP Steve Baker stepped down as a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) in September, when then Prime Minister Liz Truss made him Minister of State for Northern Ireland – a post he still holds under Rishi Sunak, Truss’s replacement.
But the latest MPs’ register of interests shows that Baker received £10,000 in January from Neil Record, a Conservative Party donor and chair of the GWPF’s campaign arm, Net Zero Watch. The register does not say what the donation was for.
Net Zero Watch has urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels”, commission “a new fleet of coal-fired power plants”, and for renewable energy from wind and solar to be “wound down completely”.
Record is also chair of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), an influential free market think tank which has opposed UK climate policies and received funding from oil giant BP.
Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party, told DeSmog: “It is clear that action on the climate crisis is being held back by ministers who hold climate sceptic views. Worse, these same ministers are being shovelled funds by some of the most dangerous anti-science organisations.”
She added: “The views of climate-sceptic organisations and their money must be kept well away from policy makers.”
The cabinet office did not respond when contacted for comment.
Baker and Climate Denial
Baker has long been associated with climate denial groups – and appears to hold sceptic views of his own.
Last year, he retweeted a GWPF paper which declared that there was “no evidence of a climate crisis”, and while at an IEA event in 2021, Baker said much climate science is “contestable” and “sometimes propagandised”.
Before taking up his ministerial post in September, Baker was a GWPF trustee and deputy chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) of backbench MPs opposed to climate action, which had extensive ties to the GWPF.
Last summer, Baker helped run Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s Tory leadership campaign, in which she vowed to “suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve Net Zero by 2050”.
In October, Baker claimed he was no longer lobbying the government on climate policies, but revealed that he was still administrator of the NZSG’s WhatsApp group.
Last month’s payment was not the first donation Baker has received from Neil Record. Baker also accepted £5,000 from the same donor in January 2022. On that occasion, the register of interests said the donation was for Baker’s work with the Covid Recovery Group, which opposed coronavirus restrictions, and the relaunch of Conservative Way Forward, a pressure group.
At least three front bench MPs, including two members of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, have received funds from GWPF funders in the past.
In 2021, Australian hedge fund manager and GWPF donor Michael Hintze – now a Lord – gave a £1,000 gift of a ticket to the Conservative Party’s gala event to Kemi Badenoch, who is now Secretary of State for International Trade.
Penny Mordaunt, currently Leader of the House of Commons, received £3,000 from Hintze ahead of the 2019 general election.
“The apathy towards climate action within the Conservative government must be called out,” said Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP and climate spokesperson. “The Global Warming Policy Foundation should have no place in our politics. For senior Conservatives to cosy up to the GWPF shows just how far their rot has spread within the party.”
She added that the government must “decouple” itself from think tanks that spread disinformation. “The Conservatives cannot break from the shackles of climate action delay while their Ministers continue to align their views with – and take money from – the nation’s leading climate deniers,” she said.
The Charity Commission is currently reviewing a complaint that calls for the GWPF to be stripped of its charitable status for political campaigning. The think tank has received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which has $30 million worth of shares in energy companies including Exxon and Chevron, and the DonorsTrust, which has been used to channel funding from the Koch family.
The GWPF, IEA, Neil Record and Steve Baker did not respond when contacted for comment.