Director of Climate Science Denial Group Tony Abbott Reappointed as Board of Trade Adviser

Government keeps the ex-Australian leader on the high profile advisory body despite previous calls to sack him over anti-green ties.
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Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Credit: Xinhua / Alamy

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, a director of the UK’s principal climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), has been reappointed by the government as an adviser to the prestigious Board of Trade. 

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has today announced the 13 advisers who will provide counsel to the Board of Trade – one of the government’s most high profile economic advisory bodies.

The Board of Trade provides advice to the government on its trade deals with foreign countries, which often encompass environmental and climate standards. 

The news of Abbott’s reappointment comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to make a speech today setting out several delays to the government’s net zero policies. It is thought that he will announce that a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be pushed back from 2030 to 2035, while also watering down schemes to phase out gas boilers and scrapping new energy efficiency regulations on homes. 

Abbott, who was originally appointed to the Board of Trade in September 2020, is one of only four advisers reappointed by Badenoch, who has relaunched the board to focus on exports following her appointment as business and trade secretary earlier this year. 

The former Australian leader has been retained despite opposition parties and campaigners calling in February for the government to remove Abbott after he joined the senior ranks of the GWPF.

Abbott has previously said that “climate change is probably doing good” and is a long-standing advocate for coal power, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel.

Green Party peer Baroness Bennett told DeSmog that, by reappointing Abbott, “Sunak has lined himself up very firmly on the side of Trumpian populism – the direction that the prime minister is clearly increasingly taking as this chaotic Tory government desperately flails its way towards a general election.”

The GWPF was founded by the late Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson with the purpose of combating what it describes as “extremely damaging and harmful policies” designed to mitigate climate change. 

The GWPF has gained a number of high profile directors over the last year. New trustees include Tory peer Lord David Frost, the UK’s former chief Brexit negotiator, Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns, and Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson

The GWPF said in 2015 that “policies to ‘stop climate change’ are based on climate models that completely failed to predict the lack of warming for the past two decades”. It has also expressed the view that carbon dioxide has been mis-characterised as pollution, when in fact it is a “benefit to the planet”. 

In September 2022, Net Zero Watch – the GWPF’s campaigning arm – published a report which stated that “changing atmospheric carbon dioxide has minimal impact on Earth’s temperature and climate”, and “efforts to decarbonise in the hope of affecting global temperatures will be in vain”. 

This year, the world experienced its hottest July on record, with climate change fueling extreme weather events. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading climate science body, has warned of the spread of climate misinformation which “undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency” of cutting emissions. 

Tory MP Chris Skidmore, a former energy minister who led a recent review into net zero by the government, said that Sunak risked making “the greatest mistake of his premiership”.

DeSmog has previously revealed that the Conservative Party received £3.5 million in donations from fossil fuel interests and climate science deniers in 2022, while two-thirds of the directors in charge of the party’s multi-million-pound endowment fund have a financial interest in oil, gas, and highly polluting industries.

Businessman David Meller has also been announced as a new adviser to the Board of Trade. 

Meller is a Conservative Party donor whose company Meller Designs was given £160 million in personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts during the pandemic via the government’s notorious ‘VIP’ lane.

Meller has donated more than £70,000 to the Conservative Party and its politicians since 2009, including £3,250 to Michael Gove’s short-lived 2016 Conservative leadership bid, with Meller serving as Gove’s finance chair. Meller Designs was referred to the VIP lane by Gove’s office.

Meller has continued to donate to Conservative MPs following the pandemic. Electoral Commission records show that he gave £4,990 to Grant Shapps on 6 July, who was at the time serving as Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary. 

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of David Meller or Meller Designs. 

A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson said: “We’ve announced a revamped Board of Trade that brings together a wide range of private sector expertise to help boost British exports, identify barriers to trade and represent the best of Brand Britain to the world.

“All advisers to the board serve in personal capacities, do not speak on behalf of government and do not set government policy.”

Tony Abbott and the GWPF have been approached for comment. David Meller has been approached for comment via Meller Designs. 

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Sam is DeSmog’s UK Deputy Editor. He was previously the Investigations Editor of Byline Times and an investigative journalist at the BBC. He is the author of two books: Fortress London, and Bullingdon Club Britain.

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