Former Environment Secretary Promotes Post-Brexit ‘Special Relationship’ with US Climate Science Deniers

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Owen Paterson, Myron Ebell, and Jim Inhofe all meet in D.C.

Former environment secretary Owen Paterson made the rounds with some of the top climate science deniers on a tour of the US this autumn to promote a “special relationship” post-Brexit.

The Shropshire MP travelled to Washington D.C. in October, DeSmog UK can reveal, where he met with infamous climate science deniers Lamar Smith, James Inhofe, and Myron Ebell. He also gave speeches at both the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Heritage Foundation – two libertarian think tanks known for promoting climate science denial and working against environmental regulations.

Paterson’s visits are the latest in a string of meetings between pro-Brexit UK politicians (such as international trade secretary Liam Fox) and US climate science denial groups.

The individuals and groups that Paterson met have worked to influence the current Trump administration, particularly when it comes to climate, energy and the environment.

Ebell, the director of energy and environment at CEI, worked on Trump’s transition team – though it was later revealed he had never actually spoken to the president-elect.

Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and is perhaps most famous for bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor to illustrate his argument that global warming isn't happening.

Smith meanwhile is the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology and is known for his attacks on the US Environmental Protection Agency and for defending ExxonMobil’s climate science denial.

In a tweet following his meeting with Inhofe and Ebell at the CEI, Paterson wrote: “Real opportunities to work more closely with the USA post-Brexit.”

At the CEI, Paterson focused on the environmental benefits of Brexit in a speech entitled “Brexit: Good for the UK, good for the USA and good for the planet”.

Speaking to an invitation-only audience, Paterson said: “The EU’s environmental approach – and its attitude towards innovation more widely – has stifled progress at the expense of both the consumer and the planet. Brexit, in allowing the UK the chance to break free of this wrong-headed, statist, anti-science thinking, cannot come soon enough.”

He continued: “The EU has single-mindedly pursued an overly prescriptive interpretation of the ‘Precautionary Principle,’ smothering opportunities for innovation in thrall to the emotions of vocal activists rather than scientific evidence and advice.

“The green blob dominates thinking in Brussels, with generous grants given to green groups so that they will lobby it for regulations which then require large budgets to enforce.”

Paterson famously blamed the “green blob” for his being fired from his role as environment secretary in 2014.

Brexit will allow rules to be determined at the local level instead, Paterson argued, and could help tackle invasive species through better border control as well as allow for greater innovation including genetically-modified crops.

This same theme appears to have been discussed during Paterson’s meeting with Lamar Smith. As Paterson tweeted at the time: “Great to meet such a key figure … looking to work with the UK post-Brexit on advancing technology”.

While it remains to be seen exactly how Brexit will impact the environment, the EU has been credited for helping to lift environmental standards and for introducing strong protections, from limits on air pollution to water quality standards.

Questions have also been raised by the House of Lords about how the UK will set new environmental standards and effectively enforce these rules once the country leaves the European Union. And many have warned that the Brexit Repeal Bill – which lays out how the government will translate EU law into British law – will give an opportunity for ministers to undermine environmental rules.

Meanwhile, Paterson’s speech to the Heritage Foundation – not his first visit to the think tank – emphasised trade and “the great advantages a newly-independent UK will bring to the long term Special Relationship between our two countries”.

As DeSmog UK previously revealed, both the Heritage Foundation and CEI have worked to promote a “special relationship” with post-Brexit Britain. While CEI attended the 2016 Conservative Party Conference just months after the vote to leave the EU, the Heritage Foundation has long been campaigning for Brexit as well as having met international trade secretary Liam Fox on multiple occasions.

DeSmog UK contacted Paterson for comment along with CEI and the Heritage Foundation as well as Smith and Inhofe. CEI declined to comment while the others failed to reply in time for publication.

For more information on key actors lobbying against action on climate change, take a look at DeSmog UK’s newly launched Climate Disinformation Database, and our new Web of Disinformation map.

Photo: Screenshot from Twitter

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