How climate sceptic groups are linked to attempts to take control of the National Trust

The National Trust has a range of policies designed to reduce carbon emissions. These could come under threat.

National Trust

A small group of highly committed and well-funded right-wing ideologues with a history of climate scepticism and lobbying against climate change policies are linked with attempts to take over one of the country’s most important national institutions, the National Trust.

Last weekend, the National Trust, a charity and membership organisation for heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, held its AGM and it was no ordinary meeting. This AGM had been subject to a well-coordinated campaign by a group of ‘anti woke insurgents’ known as the Restore Trust (RT) who had been backing a raft of candidates in elections for the trust’s governing council.

Three of their candidates, Guy Trehane, Min Grimshaw and Andrew Powles, were elected to the council, although Trehane immediately released a statement denying he represents Restore’s concerns.

RT has made no secret of the fact that it has taken issue with a report published by the Trust last year in which it highlighted connections between 93 of its historic places and colonialism and slavery. The group says that it wants to restore the Trust’s ‘apolitical ethos’ and wants to help it return to ‘doing what it does best’ by maintaining historic buildings, interiors and artefacts, gardens and countryside to the ‘highest standard’.

It has also previously condemned a decision by the National Trust to hire a climate change lobbyist.

Yet delve just a little deeper into Restore Trust and you’ll find on its meet the team page none other than Neil Record, currently chairman of the Institute of Economic Affairs, which it was previously revealed had spent decades suggesting manmade climate change may be uncertain or exaggerated.

Record, a Tory part donor, has also previously donated money to the climate denying lobby group Global Warming Policy Foundation, which has been described as the country’s most prominent source of climate-change denial. It has also previously described scientific facts on climate change as ‘contested’. Record has also been chairman of the Global Warming Policy Forum, which is the campaign arm of the climate science denial organisation.

In addition, Record is also chair of Net Zero Watch, a new campaign group which shares many of the same board members as the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It has been featuring on GB News lately to comment on matters concerning COP26, where it decries ‘climate hysteria’.

Not only has Record’s Restore Trust tried to whip up a moral panic over the National Trust’s decision to explore links between its properties’ colonial past, it has also claimed that the trust is losing members over a ‘woke rebrand’. However, the trust released new figures showing that although it suspended recruitment of members during the pandemic, which resulted in a 1% drop, new subscriptions broke records over the summer, with 159,732 new signups in August, the third highest-ever month.

It’s also worth pointing out that the National Trust has a range of policies designed to reduce carbon emissions. These could come under threat should the Restore Trust continue its campaigns against the trust and be successful in getting more of their candidates elected.

Given that only 0.5% of the National Trust’s members usually vote in AGMs, it seems that such an outcome won’t be as far-fetched as some would imagine.

A Restore Trust spokesperson told LFF in response: “At Restore Trust, we campaign on the conservation of historic houses, gardens and landscapes and on good governance and management of the National Trust. We expect information put out by the National Trust to be thoroughly researched by the relevant experts and based on sound evidence. We take no interest in “woke” or “anti-woke” policies. We do not campaign on climate change.”

Net Zero Watch, the IEA and GWPF have been approached for comment.

Basit Mahmood is Editor of Left Foot Forward

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