Owen Paterson

Owen Paterson


Owen Paterson is MP for North Shropshire and a former environment secretary. He was appointed to the role in 2012 but was sacked by then prime minister David Cameron for fear his view that climate change was not a serious problem would cost the Conservative party votes in the 2015 general election.

Paterson’s brother-in-law is Matt Ridley, a hereditary peer and advisor to the climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Paterson’s annual lecture to the GWPF in 2014 – in which he called for the UK to scrap the climate change act – was actually written by Ridley, it later emerged.

After being sacked from the cabinet, Paterson set up the pro-Brexit thinktank UK2020, which sought to cut regulations and targets related to climate change.

Stance on Climate Change

In his lecture to the GWPF, later revealed to have been partly written by climate science denier Matt Ridley, Paterson said:

I readily accept the main points of the greenhouse theory. Other things being equal, carbon dioxide emissions will produce some warming. The question always has been: how much? On that there is considerable uncertainty.

For, I also accept the unambiguous failure of the atmosphere to warm anything like as fast as predicted by the vast majority of climate models over the past 35 years, when measured by both satellites and surface thermometers. And indeed the failure of the atmosphere to warm at all over the past 18 years – according to some sources. Many policymakers have still to catch up with the facts.

I also note that the forecast effects of climate change have been consistently and widely exaggerated thus far.”

Key Quotes

October 2014

In his GWPF lecture:

We are the only country to have legally bound ourselves to the 2050 targets – and certainly the only one to bind ourselves to a doomed policy. In the absence of a legally binding international agreement, which looks unlikely given disagreement within EU member states and the position of the BRIC countries, the Climate Change Act should be effectively suspended and eventually repealed.”

I remain open-minded to the possibility that climate change may one day turn dangerous. So, it would be good to cut emissions, as long as we do not cause great suffering now for those on low incomes, or damage today’s environment.

Key Deeds

September, 2018 

Paterson was invited to deliver a speech to the Heritage Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Washington DC which has repeatedly spread disinformation about climate change and received funding from ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundation. 

Paterson was expected to make the case for how Brexit “can further strenghten the Special Relationship [between the UK and the US] as a powerful force for free trade and innovation on the world stage”. 

During his visit to Washington DC, Paterson also visited The White House Writers Group, which describes itself as a “strategic communications consulting company”. Writing on Twitter, Paterson boasted to have met US government representatives, farmers and industry representatives and discussed “the downsides for the US of Chequers preventing a US-UK free trade deal and the spectacular gains which such a deal could provide for both countries”. 

October, 2017

Paterson delivered a speech to an invited audience at the Competitive Enterprise Institute – a US thinktank infamous for spreading climate disinformation. In the speech, he said:

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 was introduced by Myron Ebell, the institute’s Director for Energy and Environment. Ebell led President Donald Trump’s transition team on energy issues, despite Ebell’s assertions he’d never actually met Trump, and is known for spreading climate science denial.

March, 2017

Paterson signed a letter to the BBC complaining about its coverage of the Brexit referendum. The letter argued the BBC was biased to the ‘remain’ side of the campaign.

July, 2016

Paterson declared his support for Andrea Leadsom in the Conservative party leadership contest following David Cameron’s resignation. Both Paterson and Leadsom have strong ties to a trans-Atlantic network of individuals and groups spreading climate disinformation and pushing for Brexit.

May, 2016

Signed a letter calling for the UK government to delay setting a target for its fifth carbon budget, as required by the Climate Change Act, as it would hurt the UK’s international economic competitiveness.

January, 2016

Paterson declared his intention to campaign for Brexit alongside brother-in-law and GWPF advisor Matt Ridley as part of the Business for Britain group.

October, 2014

Shortly after being sacked from government Paterson delivered the annual lecture for climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which it was later revealed was partly written by brother-in-law and GWPF advisor Matt Ridley.

November, 2013

Paterson met with the bosses of a number of oil and gas companies interesting in fracking in the UK. The Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) decided to withhold an internal briefing it prepared for Paterson in advance of the meeting.

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