David Cameron faces a major party rebellion over climate change, with Conservative funders giving money to climate denialists and calling for a party rethink on its policy of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
DeSmog UK has identified five generous Tory donors, including two members of the House of Lords, who have together provided the party with £3.6 million while simultaneously bankrolling Lord Lawson’s climate denial charity, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
The revelations come as Cameron returns from the UN summit on climate change in New York, during which he claimed to have kept his promise to deliver the “greenest government ever”.
The Tory leader risks splitting his party further apart if he challenges climate deniers among his grassroots, while failing to champion climate action leaves him vulnerable to attack from both Labour and his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Ed Miliband, during his Labour Party Conference leadership speech, attacked Cameron for failing to deliver on his pre-election pledges on the environment. “He’s been found out, because he hugged a huskie before the election, and then said ‘let’s cut the green crap’ after the election,” Miliband claimed.
The anti-climate charge within the Tory party is now being led by Owen Paterson, the sacked environment minister who will be giving the GWPF annual lecture in October. He has threatened to establish his own think tank in order to attack climate science as well as address other issues that divide the Tories.
George Osborne, the chancellor and a likely future Tory party leadership contender, remains close to his Treasury predecessor Lord Lawson, and climate denial offers the perfect opportunity to connect with funders furious at Cameron’s attempt to greenwash the Tories. Former cabinet minister, Peter Lilley MP, has also given support to the denial faction of the party.
Lawson and his foundation questions the scientific evidence for climate change and attacks government policy on cutting emissions—but has long refused to reveal just where its money comes from. Lawson recently launched a new forum as a political campaign arm of his foundation, with eight months to go until the general election.
Some GWPF donors have even threatened to leave the Conservative party and instead join the right-wing rivals UKIP, as the rift between traditional industrialists and the modernisers grows increasingly wider over the themes of climate change, the environment more generally, and also the explosive row over Europe.
Mark Reckless, who defected from the Tories to UKIP just ahead of the party conference in Birmingham was privately unhappy with the party line on climate change.
Douglas Carswell, who also abandoned the Conservatives for UKIP, was also highly sceptical of climate science. He once wrote: “My biggest regret as an MP is that I failed to oppose the 2008 Climate Change Act. It was a mistake. I am sorry.”
DeSmog UK has discovered that Lord Leach, a Conservative peer in the House of Lords who has donated nearly £70,000 to the Conservatives since 2003, has simultaneously been co-funding the GWPF. Leach, who has declared shares in BP, said during a speech in the House of Lords that he would sail with HMS Lawson before the GWPF was first formed five years ago.
Michael Hintze, an investor whose company CQS controls a £5 billion fund, has also supported the climate denial group. Hintze gave the second largest single donation from an individual to the party since 2001 in 2014 when he signed a cheque for £1.5 million.
According to figures compiled by searchthemoney.com and data from the Electoral Commission, Hintze has handed over £3 million to the Conservative party since 2002. He has also donated £37,500 to chancellor George Osborne. “I enjoy giving money away,” the world’s 880th richest person once said. “The more you give, the more you get.”
The currency speculator Neil Record, whose company has made millions from currency speculation, was named this week by the climate investigations website DeSmog UK as a significant funder of the GWPF. Record donated a total of £334,050 to the Conservatives between 2008 and 2011.
The multi-millionaire baby bottle manufacturer, Edward Atkin CBE, has donated £214,200 to the Conservative party while also bankrolling the GWPF with £50,000 of funding in the three years to 2013 through his Atkin Charitable Foundation. Celia Atkin, his wife, was once named one of Britain’s wealthiest women.
Both Record and Atkin are board members of Lawson's newly formed Global Warming Policy Forum.
The industrialist Lord Nigel Vinson, who formed the Centre for Policy Studies, the oil- and tobacco-funded vehicle for Thatcher’s drive to power, has said that he is “proud” to support the charity. He and his wife have donated £16,000 to the Tories. Vinson recently threatened to defect to UKIP, and shortly after his wife made a £10,000 donation to the right wing fringe party.
Last night, Dr Benny Peiser, the director of both the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Global Warming Policy Forum, refused to comment on this story when contacted by DeSmog UK.
UPDATE: A sentence in this story has been changed to reflect the fact Lord Leach has been in touch to explain that he believes he no longer holds shares in BP. He states: “I do not have a shareholding in BP. If I once did it was trivial. A stockbroker has discretion over my portfolio, so it is not impossible that from time to time he will buy an oil or gas share for me.”
Tomorrow: Meet the millionaire Tory backing Lord Lawson’s climate denial charity who has made a fortune from fracking.