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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Secret funding of climate sceptics is not restricted to the U.S. In the UK, wealthy rightwing donors also finance campaigns against policies to reduce greenhouse gases. Main group is the Global Warming Policy Foundation established by Lord Lawson

by Bob Ward, The Guardian, February 15, 2013

  Lord Nigel Lawson at the London Stock Exchange
The main lobby group for such sceptics in the UK is the Global Warming Policy Foundation, established by Lord Lawson. Photograph: Micha Theiner/Rex Features

The spectacular exposé by the Guardian of the hidden funding network for US climate change sceptics reveals a set-up that also exists in the UK, where wealthy rightwing donors secretly finance a highly professional campaign against policies to reduce greenhouse gases.
The main lobby group for such sceptics in the UK is the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), established by Lord Lawson, a Conservative peer. The foundation was officially launched with an article by Lawson in the Times on 22 November 2009, just three days after emails that had been hacked from the University of East Anglia were posted on the web in a bid to scupper the United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen that December.
Lawson used the article to accuse climate scientists of "manipulating" records of global temperature and of refusing external scrutiny of their raw data, while also calling for a "an open and reasoned debate" about domestic and international climate change policies.
But despite his apparent enthusiasm for greater transparency by climate researchers, Lawson has been less than forthcoming about how the foundation is funded. According to its latest annual accounts, the foundation received £12,161 from membership fees in the year ending 31 July 2012.
As the annual membership fee is "at least £100," it appears that the foundation has 120 members at most.
The identity of the donors is shrouded in secrecy. The foundation's website states that it is "funded overwhelmingly by voluntary donations from a number of private individuals and charitable trusts," and that it "does not accept gifts from either energy companies or anyone with a significant interest in an energy company."
Lord Lawson has consistently refused to disclose the name of the donors. When interviewed by BBC Radio 4 last October, he said that he relied on his friends who "tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent than the average person."
However, membership fees are only a minor source of revenue for the foundation. Accounts show that it has received more than £1m in donations over the past three years.
The Guardian managed to uncover evidence last March that one of the foundation's secret donors is Michael Hintze, a wealthy businessman who also gives large sums to the Conservative party.
So what does Lord Lawson do with all this money? Although the foundation is registered as an educational charity, its primary purpose seems to be to campaign against policies to tackle climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
After the UK general election in May 2010, the foundation started to lobby the new Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition governmentto stop subsidies for alternatives to fossil fuels and to abandon the UK's emissions reductions targets.
The foundation has also paid for the publication and dissemination of pamphlets by prominent climate change sceptics. For instance, it has distributed a leaflet extolling the virtues of shale gas by Matt Ridley, the former chairman of Northern Rock who earlier this month was voted into the House of Lords by 24 Conservative hereditary peers. And last October, the foundation issued a pamphlet by Conservative MP Peter Lilley which attacked the 2006 review of the economics of climate change carried out by Prof Lord Stern, currently chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The foundation's lobbying activities are also assisted by the services of Bell Pottinger, headed by Margaret Thatcher's favourite advertising expert, Tim Bell. A register maintained by the Public Relations Consultants Association shows that the foundation was a client of Bell Pottinger between December 2010 and February 2011.
The public relations company has attracted controversy because of its claims of influence over senior members of the government. In December 2011, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism uncovered evidence that senior executives of Bell Pottinger boast of their contacts with the prime minister and the chancellor.
George Osborne reportedly has a strong relationship with the chair of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and even hosted a 80th birthday party for Lord Lawson at Downing Street last March.
So the question is whether it is merely a coincidence that the chancellor wants to cut subsidies for renewable energyintroduce tax cuts for the exploration of shale gas, and weaken the UK's targets for reducing emissions, or a sign of the success of a US-style lobbying campaign by the Global Warming Policy Foundation on behalf of its wealthy rightwing donors?

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