Tory peer with strong links to climate denial appointed to panel overseeing government’s environment policy

Tom Batchelor
·3-min read
Peter Lilley, who once wrote ‘we cannot pretend that comparatively modest changes to the temperature of the Earth will lead to Armageddon – they will not' (PA)
Peter Lilley, who once wrote ‘we cannot pretend that comparatively modest changes to the temperature of the Earth will lead to Armageddon – they will not' (PA)

A Tory peer who has strong links to climate denial has been appointed to a panel overseeing government climate policy.

Peter Lilley, who once described himself as “lukewarm” to the idea of global warming, is one of 13 members who will examine the environmental impact of government decision-making.

His selection to the Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee was described as “beyond farcical” by environmentalists.

The former Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden is a controversial choice because he is just one of just a handful of MPs who opposed the 2008 Climate Change Act.

In a 2009 debate the pro-Brexit peer referred to certain climate claims as “fairy stories” – including the “idea that a rise of 2C would constitute dangerous climate change that we should try to avoid by spending unlimited amounts”.

He said: “We cannot pretend that comparatively modest changes to the temperature of the Earth will lead to Armageddon – they will not.

“I hope that we will listen to those scientists, many of whom are in government employ, who have warned against alarmist views, and that we will take a more consensual view of the basic minimum science that is agreed and open that up to debate and discussion, without trying to silence those who disagree by calling them ‘deniers’ and equating them with holocaust deniers.

“As I said, I am not a denier – I am a lukewarmer – but even those who deny the existence of anthropological global warming deserve to be heard, just as the alarmists do.”

Of the Climate Change Act, he wrote in 2008: “We all want to save the planet from overheating, just as we all want to save the financial system from meltdown. We accept that both rescues may cost us a lot.

“But a healthy democracy should at least debate the cost, compare it with the likely benefits (or costs of doing nothing) and consider whether we can achieve the same ends at less cost.”

Jessica Townsend, a spokesperson for the Extinction Rebellion environmental campaign group, told the DeSmog website Lord Lilley's appointment was “beyond farcical”.

Commenting on the reaction to his appointment, Lord Lilley told The Independent: “I am amused at how alarmed the alarmists are about someone being appointed to a committee on climate change who entirely accepts the science of global warming and may ask inconvenient questions about what scientific evidence there is for alarmist claims! Emperor’s with no clothes spring to mind.”

The peer – a minister in the Thatcher and Major governments – was put forward for the role by government whips and confirmed by the Committee of Selection – made up of five Tory MPs, three from Labour and one belonging to the SNP.

The Environment and Climate Change Committee will replace the House of Lords’ EU Environment Sub-Committee, which ceased to exist at the end of March.

It is chaired by Baroness Kate Parminter, a Liberal Democrat peer, who once ran the Campaign to Protect Rural England and was a former vice-president of the animal charity, RSPCA. Baroness Young, who is currently the chair of the Woodland Trust, is also on the panel.

The Independent contacted the House of Lords and the Government Whips’ Office for comment.

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