DeSmog

Net Zero Watch

Net Zero Watch

Background

Net Zero Watch (NZW) is a campaign group launched and managed by the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) that claims to “scrutinise” the UK government’s net zero emissions plans and provide a “clear view of the reality of climate and energy policies”.1Who We Are,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/JIFzv

The GWPF is the UK’s most prominent climate science denial group, with its associated “Foundation” having been founded by former chancellor Nigel Lawson with the purpose of combating what it describes as “extremely damaging and harmful policies” designed to mitigate climate change.2Ed Miliband clashes with Lord Lawson on global warming,” BBC News, December 6, 2009. Archived August 17, 2015 Archive link: https://archive.ph/47R7w/again?url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8398103.stm.

According to its website, NZW’s three “key campaigning issues” are “consistent climate and international policies”, “achievable and cost-effective solutions”, and “balanced and open debate”.3Who We Are,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/JIFzv The campaign’s website features factsheets from the GWPF, as well as a link to sign up to the GWPF’s newsletter.4Factsheets,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/71kJl

In a post announcing the launch of Net Zero Watch, Director Benny Peiser wrote that one of the central concerns of NZW was the 2021 energy crisis in the UK, writing that gas prices were “going through the roof” while “our domestic shale gas resources [sit] untapped under an absurd government ban”.5Benny Peiser. “Welcome to Net Zero Watch,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/waLwc

Peiser added that Net Zero Watch will “challenge the wild claims of green activists and policy advisers about this venerable and benign technology, which has brought US gas prices down to a small fraction of those here”.

The group is currently based at 55 Tufton Street in Westminster, an address it shares with the GWPF and several right-wing, libertarian thinktanks.

The campaign was launched on 11 October, 2021.6Benny Peiser. “Welcome to Net Zero Watch,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/waLwc

Stance on Climate Change

Net Zero Watch states on its website:

“We all want to see a cleaner and better environment for future generations, but if climate and energy policies are rushed and their costs and implications not fully thought through, they will almost certainly do more harm than good.”7Who We Are,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/JIFzv

Funding

According to its website, Net Zero Watch is funded by “private donations”. The group also states that in order to “make clear its complete independence, neither it nor the GWPF accept gifts from either energy companies or anyone with a significant interest in an energy company.”8Who We Are,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/JIFzv

Key People

As of 2024, NZW’s Board of Directors were listed as:9Board Members,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/a31l8

As of 2021, NZW’s officers were listed as:10Who We Are,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/JIFzv

Actions

April 9, 2024

On a panel debate on GB News, NZW’s director Andrew Montford refused to reveal the group’s funders.11Think Tank Director REFUSES to reveal funders in fiery clash- ‘You should be able to name them!’,” YouTube video uploaded by user @GBNews, April 9, 2024. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

February 8, 2024

Net Zero Watch publish a paper from anti-climate columnist Ross Clark, who argued that a retreat from net zero was the best way for political parties across Europe to avoid electoral defeat, because:

“Net Zero was an attempt to defy the laws of physics and thermodynamics. It was irrational and bound to fail. Cannier politicians are starting to see its fatal flaws. The retreat has begun, and will continue inexorably for years to come. It’s now just a question of how long it takes, and how much damage will be done to society before sanity returns.”12Retreat from Net Zero is under way,” Net Zero Watch, February 8, 2024. Archived February 13, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/HpnZ3

February 2, 2024

Net Zero Watch published an article by Clive Goodridge in which he attacked the “invasion” of Wales by wind turbines, laying blame at Welsh ministers’ “distinctly green-tinged views” who “ensured that the wool was pulled over the eyes of the public.”13Clive Goodridge. “How the Welsh government sold out the Welsh countryside,” Net Zero Watch, February 2, 2024. Archived February 5, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/yupeT

January 31, 2024

New Zero Watch published a report which argued that the transition to net zero was a national security threat to the UK because the country would be unable to produce arms and maintain its military.“14The net zero music stops,” Net Zero Watch, January 31, 2024. Archived February 5, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/Bj0Kt

October 24, 2023

Net Zero Watch published a report written by South African journalist Geoff Hill, which found that energy poverty was fuelling deforestation for heat in Sub-saharan Africa, and argued that fossil fuel extraction should be fast-tracked to tackle energy poverty.1570% of Africa’s forest is gone. Without affordable energy it will vanish,” Net Zero Watch, October 24, 2023. Archived April 19, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/wEYrn

The author said:

“Pakistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, South Africa and many other countries will depend on fossil fuels for years, even decades. We have the science to burn these much more cleanly. Aid and trade should be focussed on doing this now. Nuclear energy, green hydrogen and eventually nuclear fusion have the potential to change our world for the better, but poor countries aren’t in the market.”

October 13, 2023

NZW published a press release by its director Andrew Monford, calling for the UK’s independent climate advisory body, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), to be “cleared out”, accusing the body of “‘shameless’ deceit over the cost of Net Zero.”16Andrew Montford. “Net Zero Watch calls for a clearout at the Climate Change Committee,” Net Zero Watch, October 13, 2024. Archived May 22, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/3iKzQ

He is quoted as saying:

“The CCC has been at the centre of the deception of the British public that Rishi Sunak referred to. They say that they are ‘disappointed’ not to be consulted about the recent policy changes, but what sane person would want to consult an organisation that is so wedded to trickery?” 

October 11, 2023

A press release from Net Zero Watch attempted to undermine claims by a climate scientist made on a Channel 4 news program that the climate was “out of control”, arguing that it was not caused by climate change but rather “the explanation for the recent event has not one cause but multiple.”17Climate “out of control”? A reality check ,” Net Zero Watch, October 11, 2023. Archived April 19, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/BOo0N The report also claimed that an example of a warming spike from the 1970s would suggest that a contemporary temperature spike is not caused by climate change. 

October 2, 2023

Net Zero Watch published a comment piece from David Whitehouse in which he downplayed the role of climate change in producing the extreme heat which killed over 3,000 people in the UK, according to figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics.18No climate signal in heatwave deaths,” Net Zero Watch, October 2, 2023. Archived May 21, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/Xmki1 Whitehouse also argued that deaths from heat “greatly exceed heat deaths.” 

April 4, 2023

Net Zero Watch’s director Andrew Montford published an obituary to the GWPF’s founder Nigel Lawson on NZW’s website, in which he lauded Lawson’s climate denialism and ‘recognition’ that “facts and data were not central to the case being made for decarbonisation; insults and conspiracies about ‘big oil’ were therefore to be expected.”19Nigel Lawson and the birth of the GWPF,” Net Zero Watch, April 4, 2024. Archived May 22, 2024. Archive URL: https://archive.is/buuun 

The piece concluded with a quote from Lawon which compared a belief in climate science to a religion: 

“It is difficult to escape the conclusion that climate change orthodoxy has in effect become a substitute religion, attended by all the intolerant zealotry that has so often marred religion in the past, and in some places still does so today.”Andrew Montford.

March 27, 2023

Net Zero Watch welcomed the EU’s decision to roll back its commitment to banning the sale of internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2030 in favour of e-fuels, synthetic hydrocarbons which are energy-intensive to produce using renewable sources.

NZW called on Rishi Sunak to abandon the UK’s planned 2030 ICE car ban, with director Benny Peiser saying: 

“Now that the European ban of the sale of combustion engine cars has been overturned, the government will come under growing pressure to follow suit if it wants to avoid destroying the British car industry for good.”20Gareth Roberts. “Combustion engines to be allowed post-2035 after e-fuels deal struck,” Fleet News, March 27, 2023. Archived March 27, 2023. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/HPyG3

January 13, 2023

NZW science editor David Whitehouse wrote that 2022 was a warm year, ranked sixth warmest” but that “anyone thinking about the claims and numbers should also look behind the headlines” that “the past nine years were the warmest recorded”.21David Whitehouse. “Global temperature 2022 – same again,” Net Zero Watch, January 13, 2023. Archived January 25, 2023. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/R5mvx 

Whitehouse argued that “the global temperature record in the 21st century spends long periods relatively flat”, and that warming has been most prominent in the arctic. He wrote: “Looking at the distribution of recent warming the dominance of the arctic is obvious. It almost leads one to suggest that the phrase global warming should be replaced by arctic warming!”

December 16, 2022

In an article published on Net Zero Watch’s (NZW) website, NZW science editor Dr David Whitehouse argued that the contribution of human activity to climate change was “uncertain” as we are “living through a period of considerable natural climate variability”, by misrepresenting the findings of a then-recently published scientific study. The authors of the study reacted to Whitehouse’s interpretation of their work by saying “it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad”.

Whitehouse said the authors’ comments were “ridiculous and unfounded,” later adding: “who checks the fact-checkers? They are splitting hairs but have no case. In fact, their own statements only confirm the gist of my review was accurate”.22David Whitehouse. “21st century warming trend change may not be due to greenhouse gasses, leading climate scientists say,” Net Zero Watch, December 16, 2022. Archived April 19, 2023. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Wlwrt

September 8, 2022

Net Zero Watch published a “factsheet” written by Andrew Montford and Gordon Hughes titled “Fixing the energy price crisis” in which they presented “concrete steps that the Government can take to reduce energy prices in the next two winters”.23Andrew Montford and Gordon Hughes. “Fixing the energy price crisis,” Net Zero Watch, September 8, 2022. Archived January 23, 2023. Archive URL: https://archive.is/CSjfw

The authors proposed reducing the value of Renewables Obligation Certificates “to zero” and “giving a green light to onshore gas in the UK” which they acknowledged “will reduce gas prices somewhat, although the effect will be limited”.

In a section warning against “red herrings” which they claimed “are in essence, pleading by special interests”, Montford and Hughes wrote:

“Most of the ‘low-hanging’ fruit of demand reduction – loft insulation, double glazing etc – has been harvested. Programmes that go further will be very expensive, putting further pressure on households, will take years to deliver, and will often fail to meet expectations.”

They added that “increasing renewables will increase electricity market prices, because it will increase the unit cost of gas-fired power stations, which set market prices”, and claimed that “unlike fossil fuels, there is little hope of renewables ever becoming cheap.”

October 4, 2022

Net Zero Watch published a press release titled “In a bad situation there are no good moves: What the UK should (but will not) do to address the energy crisis”, in which it argued that the “renewable energy obsession of climate policies in the last thirty years are to blame for the current over-exposure to natural gas”.24(Press release.) “In a bad situation there are no good moves: What the UK should (but will not) do to address the energy crisis”, Net Zero Watch, October 4, 2022. Archived January 5, 2023. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/VfHVN

In outlining a roadmap for what the UK “must do”, the release suggested that the government  “must admit that the 2050 Net Zero target is now not only unattainable but a positive danger to national well-being” and “should recommit to fossil fuels, giving a clear signal to the UK’s energy companies and to fossil fuel suppliers globally”.

The release also called for “a new fleet of coal fired power stations”, before adding that “public opinion is so confused and poorly informed by low quality journalism in the print and broadcast media, and parliament so ignorant and unrealistic, that we do not expect any foreseeable UK government to have the courage to undertake such actions”. 

June 20, 2022

Net Zero Watch published a press release calling on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pause the Government’s net zero policies and spending plans, after a Telegraph article in which the Auditor General, Gareth Davies, highlighted the risk of taxpayers being shortchanged by environmental policies.25(Press Release). “Calls for Boris Johnson to pause Net Zero policies after auditor general warns costs risk spiralling out of control”, Net Zero Watch, June 20, 2022. Archived June 20, 2022. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/X9ulz  26Camilla Turner. “Net-zero plans ‘risk being a waste of taxpayer money’, says spending watchdog”, Telegraph, June 19, 2022. Archived June 19, 2022. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/RzjxW

The press release quoted GWPF Director, Benny Peiser, who said: “We have been warning for years that radical decarbonization policies are out of control, and wildly expensive and regressive […] it is urgent that the Net Zero agenda is put on hold for the duration of the cost of living crisis.”

Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, said: “The government’s policy of achieving Net Zero at any price and at an arbitrary date has been forensically taken apart as a fruitless ambition by the National Audit Office (NAO).”

April 6, 2022

Net Zero Watch published a press release calling for the UK’s ban on fracking to be lifted in light of a Savanta ComRes poll commissioned by the group.27(Press Release). “Brits support an end to fracking ban”, Net Zero Watch, April 6, 2022. Archived April 6, 2022. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/ZS7zz 

The press release quoted Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, who said: “the government urgently needs to reconsider its stances on Net Zero and the shale gas moratorium.”

October 11, 2021

In a post announcing the launch of the Net Zero Watch campaign, Director Benny Peiser wrote that NZW was “following in the footsteps of the Global Warming Policy Forum” and that the group believed “a political backlash is long overdue”.28Benny Peiser. “Welcome to Net Zero Watch,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/waLwc

Peiser added:

“In essence, we stand at a new crossroads in the climate and energy debate.

“For years, the people of this country have been corralled towards a future that they cannot see and cannot understand. But the energy crisis this winter will reveal what politicians and eco-activists have kept hidden – that in a Net Zero future you will be poorer and colder.”

October 11, 2021

In an appearance on TalkRADIO with host Julia Hartley-Brewer, NZW Head of Policy Harry Wilkinson said that the current government “doesn’t seem to understand” that “people need to stay warm,” and that this is part of the reason for the launch of the NZW campaign. Wilkinson said that net zero had become an “overwhelming” consensus in Westminster with “so little debate, so little scrutiny” and that the campaign would “scrutinise these [net zero] policies” and “work out better alternatives that can deliver the affordability, the reliability that people need”.29“Net Zero Watch is here now to scrutinise these policies, to look at what the impacts will be for your listeners, for everyone, and work out better alternatives that can deliver the affordability and the reliability that people need.”@HarryWilkinsonn tells @JuliaHB1“. Tweet by @NetZeroWatch, October 11, 2021. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/gjYWL.

Hartley-Brewer said that the “focus now on net zero” has “taken over every other aspect of energy policy, including affordable cheap energy, reliable energy, and secure energy”.

Associated Politicians

Conservative

Contact & Address

According to its website, Net Zero Watch can be reached at the following address:30Who We Are,” Net Zero Watch. Archived October 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/JIFzv

55 Tufton Street,

London, SW1P 3QL

44 2073 406066

44 7553 361717

[email protected]

The former URL for the Global Warming Policy Forum, the campaigning wing of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, now re-directs to the Net Zero Watch site. The group’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have also been rebranded as Net Zero Watch.

Social Media

Resources

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