Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns has become a director of Net Zero Watch (NZW), a pressure group which denies climate science and campaigns for more fossil fuel extraction.
She is the latest high profile figure to ally with NZW’s parent organisation, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which is the UK’s principal climate science denial group and part of the Tufton Street network of free market think tanks. Jenkyns, the MP for Morley and Outwood, will join NZW’s board, according to a press release.
Earlier this month, Allison Pearson, the Daily Telegraph’s chief interviewer and a columnist at the newspaper, joined the GWPF board, where she sits alongside Conservative peer Lord (David) Frost and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Jenkyns – who recently called for the UK to “ditch” its net zero target – announced her new NZW role through a video claiming that, “Westminster has been gripped by groupthink on climate and energy policy for far too long … I’m looking forward to spreading the word that there are more rational approaches to these issues.”
In October 2022, NZW urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels” in response to the global energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with “a new fleet of coal fired power stations” and more oil and gas extraction.
A few months earlier, in March, NZW produced a report calling for renewable energy from wind and solar power to be “wound down completely” – and, in September, NZW published two reports rejecting climate science on the greenhouse effect.
Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas said that Net Zero Watch is among the groups “holding back vital progress to tackle the climate emergency”.
She added that it’s “shameful that Conservative MPs like Andrea Jenkyns, whose party is currently weighing up whether to approve the biggest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea, are at the very heart of it. It’s time to kick dirty fossil fuel-aligned interests out of our politics once and for all.”
‘Ditch These Targets’
Jenkyns has publicly opposed the UK’s legally binding target to cut emissions to net zero, which is backed by the world’s top climate scientists.
At an event in Parliament on 23 March, Jenkyns said: “Personally, net zero, I think we need to ditch these targets, especially at the moment, and use whatever resources we’ve got under our feet. We need to drive down energy costs for the British people, and also be self-sufficient as a nation.”
She described herself on Twitter last month as holding “no-to-net-zero views”.
Rapidly cutting carbon emissions is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including drought, famine, and ill health, according to the world’s leading climate science body, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Meanwhile, according to research from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, the average food shop will cost UK households £407 more this year due to climate change and the rising price of oil and gas. The International Monetary Fund has also pointed out that the UK’s energy crisis has been among the worst in the Western world due to its reliance on gas.
Jenkyns was welcomed to the NZW board by its chair Neil Record, who said that she brings “a welcome and fresh perspective”. He added that Jenkyns is a “seasoned campaigner and understands how to get our message across to the general public.”
Record is a major Conservative donor, having given nearly half a million pounds to the Conservative Party since 2008. He has also funded the GWPF. In February, Record donated £10,000 to Steve Baker, a former GWPF director now serving as Minister of State for Northern Ireland.
In 2015, Record told Greenpeace’s Unearthed unit: “I believe that the important scientific enquiry required for us to understand man’s effect on the climate is being hampered by a monolithic ‘establishment’ view that the science is settled.”
Hanner Greer, Campaigns Manager at Good Law Project, which is investigating the “malign” influence of Tufton Street groups, said it is “deeply concerning” that another Conservative MP has joined Net Zero Watch, given the government’s net zero goals.
In December 2019, Jenkyns was elected as the deputy chair of the European Research Group (ERG) – an internal Conservative faction that advocated for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. She served as a junior minister in the Department for Education from July to October 2022.
Other leading figures in the ERG have included Steve Baker, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who ran for Conservative leader last year vowing to “suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve net zero by 2050”.
DeSmog has previously reported on the extensive crossover between pro-Brexit groups and opposition to climate action.
Andrea Jenkyns and the GWPF were approached for comment.
Additional research by Phoebe Cooke