Tory-linked group that campaigns against net zero climate action ‘funded by US oil interests’

·4-min read
Tory MP Steve Baker is a trustee of the GWPF  (PA Archive)
Tory MP Steve Baker is a trustee of the GWPF (PA Archive)

A Tory-linked lobby group campaigning against net zero climate action has received hundreds of thousands of pounds from an oil-rich foundation with large investments in energy firms, it has been revealed.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – which has close links to Tory MP Steve Baker – refuses to disclose its donors in the UK and says it does not take money from fossil fuel interests.

But US tax documents identified by investigative journalists at the OpenDemocracy website show the lobbyists, who also use the brand "Net Zero Watch", have a donor with $30 million (£24.2 million) shares in 22 companies working across coal, oil and gas.

It has also received half a million dollars through a fund linked to the controversial oil billionaire Koch brothers.

Labour said the revelations showed US right-wing groups with links to big oil were "desperate to stop action against the climate crisis" and influence UK debate.

The group's US arm, the American Friends of the GWPF, received more than $1.3m from US donors, with at least $864,884 (£679,000) forwarded to the British group over the last four years.

Of the £1.45m in charitable donations received by the UK-based group since 2017 at least 45 per cent has come from the US - raising questions about the influence of the American right in Westminster.

The donations include $620,259 from the Donors Trust, a secretive organisation that has given hundreds of millions of pounds to more than 100 groups working to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.

That group has received millions from the Koch brothers, who inherited their father’s oil empire. The GWPF claims the Donors Trust is “middleman, matching donors to those seeking funding” and that it was “able to vet [donors with which it was matched] in line with our funding policy”.

The UK anti-climate action lobby group also received $210,525 in 2018 and 2020 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation – an organisation set up by the billionaire libertarian heir to an oil and banking dynasty.

Greenpeace UK characterises the Global Warming Policy Foundation as an organisation which has “spent the last twenty years campaigning to preserve our addiction to fossil fuels”.

Conservative MP Steve Baker is a trustee of the foundation, as is Labour MP Graham Stringer also sits on its board and has questioned the scientific consensus on the climate emergency.

Through Mr Baker the group has links 20 Tory MPs and peers, who form the backbench Net Zero Scrutiny Group, which campaigns against net zero plans. Mr Baker and another Tory MP Craig Mackinlay are regularly quoted in press releases from Net Zero Watch – often repeating its talking points.

Labour's shadow secretary Ed Miliband said: “US right-wing groups with links to big oil are desperate to stop action against the climate crisis. Now they are trying to extend their reach into UK political debate."

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The Global Warming Policy Foundation rejects the claim that the Sarah Scaife Foundation represented oil interests, telling openDemocracy: “The wealth that ultimately created the Scaife Foundation was created at the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth. It would be ludicrous to suggest that three generations on, it represents an oil company interest.”

The GWPF told The Independent: “We do not accept donations from anyone with an interest in an energy company. We turn down many offers of funding from people with vested interests. We are not sure this is true of any group on the other side of the debate.”

Tory MP Steve Baker said: "I understand the GWPF has already given a response to these allegations, which appear to be ridiculous.

"It is an extraordinary fact that the same newspapers and commentators who would usually be the first to protest any kind of poverty are wasting the public's time with these attempts to distract from the real issues at hand.

"It would be better if the political world focused their attention on how our current energy strategy has driven up energy prices and contributed to the terrible cost-of-living crisis that so many are experiencing.”

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