The Conservative Party remains indebted to big money interests in oil, gas and aviation

Rishi Sunak has received £141,000 from individuals and companies with financial ties to the oil and gas sectors, the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal.

Despite this week’s pledge to uphold the ban on fracking in the UK and the Prime Minister’s claim to be “absolutely committed” to the environment, it has since emerged that Sunak won’t be attending next month’s COP27 UN climate change summit in Egypt because he is “too busy” with domestic priorities. 

Sunak has also demoted two key individuals focused on climate change – neither COP President Alok Sharma nor Climate Minister Graham Stuart will hold a seat at the Cabinet table going forward, where key administrative decisions are discussed.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the Government remains “committed to net zero and to leading international and domestic action to tackle climate change”.

These moves have been criticised by opponents as a “massive failure of leadership”, and have sparked fresh concerns from environmentalists, some of whom had initially held a degree of cautious optimism about Sunak’s seriousness in tackling climate change.

Under the short-lived premiership of Liz Truss, her Government was echoing the climate-sceptic position of free market Tufton Street think tanks, pledging to remove the ban on fracking and restricting the use of solar energy on wind farms.

But Sunak’s own track record on climate action has itself been historically lukewarm.

He has generally either voted against or been absent for votes that would help to limit the impact of climate change. His new Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey, has a similarly patchy voting record. 

Britain’s StarkChoice AheadTransformation or Collapse

Nafeez Ahmed

When Sunak served as Chancellor, the Government scrapped the green homes grant for insulation after achieving just 10% of its target and, earlier this year, the Treasury blocked further plans to help those struggling with energy bills by making homes more energy efficient – instead reducing the VAT on home insulation improvements to zero. 

During this summer’s Conservative leadership race, Sunak aligned with Truss on the vow to open up new North Sea oil and gas licences, which climate campaigners say would “only serve to lock us into an expensive source of energy for far, far longer than is necessary”. The Government has been urged to commit to no new oil or gas projects by campaigners and opposition leaders.

Sunak has promised to “deregulate” and “drive up North Sea gas production”, while not ruling out a further windfall tax on the industry, and has maintained the position of restricting the use of solar panels on “the best” farmland. He has also rejected the idea of onshore wind in favour of greater offshore installation, despite data showing that, two days ago, UK wind power (both on and offshore) set a new record, generating more than 50% of the country’s energy at peak. 

“Rishi Sunak claims the UK is forging ahead of many other countries on net zero, but actions always speak louder than words. And his decision to demote or sack all of the British Government’s senior political leaders on climate change and to not attend COP27 speaks volumes,” Labour MP Darren Jones told Byline Times.

“The Prime Minister also seems to have never understood that tackling climate change is good for the economy,” he added. “Done properly, it will create jobs across the country, create new businesses and create export opportunities for UK plc around the world. Sunak’s aversion to doing anything on climate change – which was self-evident from his time as Chancellor – must be purely ideological and, as a consequence, negligent and wrong-headed.”

Like Liz Truss, Sunak’s campaign for the Conservative Party leadership was also partly financed by those with financial interests in polluting industries. Of the more than £530,000 Sunak has received in donations in 2022, around a quarter (26.5%) have been from those with portfolios which include investments in oil, gas and aviation industry.

Baron Michael Farmer, for example, a former Conservative Party Treasurer, donated more than £23,000 to Sunak’s campaign. He is among the world’s most famous metals traders and a founding member of the multi-billion-pound Red Kite metals hedge fund. He also has current shareholdings in energy giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP.


Help to expose the big scandals of our era.

Those who donated to Sunak are not accused of wrongdoing and it is not suggested that his premiership will be beholden to fossil fuel interests. But it is clear that the Conservative Party and its leaders have a financial reliance on these corporate interests – which may filter through to Government policy, especially given the party’s history of awarding exclusive access to ministers in exchange for donations.

The party Sunak now leads has itself directly received £1.3 million in donations from fossil fuel interests and climate sceptics between December 2019 and October 2021.

Moreover, while the influence of free market groups has receded following Truss’ resignation, these climate-sceptic organisations are deeply embedded in the Conservative Party and could remain a fixture of Conservative politics for the foreseeable future

A report published yesterday by the UN’s Environment Agency highlighted that, so far, the international community is “falling far short” of its climate goals, concluding that progress on its global warming targets has been “woefully insufficient”, with policies in place still pointing to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

As it stands under current pledges, the world is on track to in fact increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that a 43% reduction in Co2 emissions is now necessary if we hope to limit warming to 1.5°C.

The world is coming “very, very close to irreversible changes”, leading climate scientist Professor Johan Rockström has warned. “Time is really running out very, very fast.”

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.


Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us


A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story! Sign up to our newsletter (and get a free edition posted to you)

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under Byline Intelligence Team

Are Recommendations for ‘Top Shares To Buy’ Worth the Paper They are Written On?

, 5 December 2022
Iain Overton looks at how buying shares recommended in the mainstream press's financial pages may not be the money-maker one would hope for

EXCLUSIVE Boris Johnson’s Ex-PR Guru Lands Role at Fracking Giant

, 15 November 2022
The appointment raises fresh questions about the 'revolving door' between energy companies and the Government, reports Sascha Lavin

‘Not Actually Very Good’: Britain’s Post-Brexit Trade Agreements with Japan and Australia

, 15 November 2022
Ellie Newis reviews two of the flagship agreements that were supposed to reignite the UK economy

More stories filed under Fact

Farmer’s Weekly Exclusive: Mass Food Fraud and Safety Scandal Engulfs Sector

, 30 March 2023
An in-depth investigation by Abi Kay has revealed that a food manufacturer was passing off huge quantities of foreign pork as British

The ‘Good Washing Machine’: Gold, God, Politics and Turning Point UK

, 29 March 2023
Katherine Denkinson delves into some of the bizarre connections between right-wing student politics, anti-Drag Queen protestors and allegations of smuggling

EXCLUSIVE Last Ditch Bill Introduced to Scrap Mandatory Voter ID in England’s Elections this May

, 29 March 2023
Lib Dems are trying to reverse the legislation they fear will cause chaos at the ballot box, while activists warn that trans people may be excluded by photo ID

More from the Byline Family