Today
Wed 22 September 2021

Conservative MP Steve Baker, known for his hard Brexit campaigning, has joined the controversial climate sceptic group led by former Chancellor Lord Lawson, Ben Gelblum reports

Right-wing Conservative MP and self-styled ‘Brexit hard man’ Steve Baker has joined a climate sceptic group, boasting of “a terrible revolt” against his party’s climate promises.

Despite being elected on a manifesto commitment to Net Zero by 2050, the former Brexit Minister and European Research Group (ERG) chair announced he is joining the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). The organisation has been lobbying against measures to tackle the climate crisis.

The GWPF was set up by Conservative peer Nigel Lawson who has continuously attacked climate science and policy in the news media. Lawson uses the Foundation to suggest credentials for having expertise in the area.

In 2017, the BBC apologised and admitted Lord Lawson “should have been challenged” over misinformation on Radio 4’s flagship Today news show in relation to climate change. Broadcast regulator Ofcom upheld a complaint by prominent scientists Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili and ruled the GWPF founder was “neither correct or sufficiently challenged during the interview or subsequently during the programme.”


Links to Fossil Fuel Industry

If Baker’s constituents are disappointed that he appears to be advocating against election manifesto Net Zero promises, they might wonder who it is their MP represents.

Last month Byline Times revealed that Baker is also the Deputy Chair of the lockdown sceptic COVID Recovery Group of MPs. The group received two donations of £5,000 each in November and then in February from Matthew Ferrey, a former senior partner at Vitol, the world’s biggest independent oil trading firm. 

After leaving Vitol, Ferrey founded Ranworth Capital which invests in the manufacturing of sensors for oil drilling. Ferrey has donated £735,250 to the Conservative Party since 2008.

Analysis of donations by Desmog revealed that in the last general election campaign, Boris Johnson was by far and away the top beneficiary of donations from supporters of climate science denial.

According to Companies House, GWPF is currently based at 55 Tufton Street, a Westminster address that it shares with several right-wing, pro-Brexit, pro-free market think tanks – including the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) that admits taking funding from fossil fuel concerns and also argues against climate action measures.

Desmog’s Mat Hope has mapped on Byline Times the web of lobbyists and politicians linked to the large Tufton Street townhouse. It houses a network of organisations that campaigned to leave the EU, are in favour of a US-UK trade deal and promote right-wing free-market economics, the erosion of environmental measures and fossil fuel interests.

GWPF Director Benny Peiser denied any connections between GWPF and other pro-Brexit, right-wing lobby groups that he said just happen to be housed under the same roof on Tufton Street. 

“We don’t coordinate or work with any of the other organisations at 55 Tufton Street,” he told Byline Times. He explained the different organisations there all have “different agendas” and the GWPF moved to the address when the owner invited them after an office became vacant and that Mr Peiser said it is paying rent on.

Yet previous investigations into the secretive think tanks sharing the central London townhouse have revealed a merry-go-round of influence, causes and staff. These include a relationship between the controversial hard-Brexit lobbyist Shanker Singham who had multiple undeclared meetings with Steve Baker when he was a Brexit minister, before moving into Tufton Street and setting up a new trade and competition unit at the IEA. 


Patterns of Disinformation

The GWPF claims to be an educational organisation and has charity status. However, it has a track record of disinformation. 

One example includes publishing claims that “carbon dioxide has been mercilessly demonised as ‘carbon pollution’, when in fact it is a benefit to the planet,” or that “cosmic rays” are more significant for global warming. A GWPF publication on the role of solar rays by Henrik Svensmark around the time the physicist appeared at a symposium hosted by the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland German party, is based on theories discredited by mainstream scientists who find no such correlation with solar rays. 

The GWPF has recently launched attacks on policies related to renewable energy, electric vehicles and environmentally-friendly heating.

Steve Baker now appears to have taken up the baton too. In a recent blizzard of daily social media posts and articles attacking the Government’s Net Zero policies, he announced: “I am delighted to accept Lord Lawson’s invitation to become a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. I’m concerned about the astronomical costs of the current Net Zero plans.”

Baker also warned: “If ministers don’t obtain and maintain the consent of the public for Net Zero now with full and frank explanations of the costs and changes ahead, eventually there will be a terrible revolt.”

His claim ignores how recent opinion polls show the public is very supportive of climate action and actually wish the Government would go further. YouGov found that most people back the decarbonisation of the UK by 2030, including nearly half of Tory voters. This compares with just 16% who support the Government’s current aim of reaching that point by 2050.


Concern for ‘Poor Families’

Peiser, who is a former anthropology lecturer and co-editor of climate sceptic journal Energy and Environment insisted the GWPF did not deny climate science and shared Baker’s concern for the impact of policies to tackle climate change “particularly for poor families.”

Ramping up this particular line of attack on measures to mitigate climate change, Baker this week penned an attack on climate measures in the Sun under the headline “The ‘Net Zero’ boiler ban will leave Britain’s poorest out in the cold”.

Despite claiming to have an urgent concern for the finances of poor people, the GWPF are reticent over their own finances. Founder Lord Lawson has boasted of friends who “tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent than the average person.”

Peiser defended the right of some GWPF donors to remain anonymous to prevent them “being attacked”. He told Byline Times “we don’t accept any donations from private energy companies or from anyone with connections to the energy sector.”

Yet an investigation by Desmog UK revealed at least two major donors linked to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a free market think tank which admits taking funding from fossil fuel concerns and which also argues against climate action measures.


‘History of Getting Stuff Wrong’

Greenpeace takes a dimmer view of GWPF’s motives. Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK Chief Scientist, told Byline Times that “numerous analyses from the world’s economists and technologists, UK Treasury, Climate Change Committee and eminent academic institutions have reviewed the evidence and concluded that the costs of getting our economies in line with climate targets are far outweighed by the benefits.”

He continued: “the idea that Steve Baker and the GWPF have uncovered genuine, unbiased evidence that all these others have missed is vanishingly unlikely.”

GWPF “are an organisation with a history of getting stuff wrong” concluded Parr. 

Neither Steve Baker nor the Conservative Party responded to requests to comment.

Peiser, director of the GWPF denied there was any conflict of interest in Steve Baker’s appointment as a trustee despite the Government’s commitments to Net Zero targets. 

“There are various ways to decarbonise the economy and he is concerned about current policies placing the burden on poor and less well off families,” Peiser told Byline Times.

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