Charity commission urged to strip Tory linked anti-net-zero group of charitable status

The Global Warming Policy Foundation is accused of breaching the Charity Commission guidelines by accepting donations from oil and gas interests.

The charity watchdog has received a letter from MPs, peers and more than 70 scientists and campaigners calling for it to strip a Tory-linked anti-net-zero lobby group of its charitable status.

Following an openDemocracy investigation, a letter has been sent to the charities watchdog which says that the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has breached the Charity Commission guidelines by accepting donations from oil and gas interests.

The GWPF was founded in November 2009 and was headquartered at Tufton Street in London, a Westminster building home to a network of organisations, including pro-Brexit thinktanks and lobby groups.

The GWPF has long been accused of spreading misinformation about climate change with “little or no regard” for scientific evidence and seeking to slow progress on necessary action.

In 2021 the Charity Commission came under fire for dismissing calls to remove charitable status from the GWPF, which has educational charity status but boasts views that scientists warn are ‘detrimental to the public.’

The high-profile climate change denialism group, which has led the backlash against the UK government’s net zero policies, has previously hit the headlines for receiving funding from groups with oil and gas interests, as revealed by openDemocracy.

The GWPF was founded by former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson who himself has previously claimed that ‘global warming is not a problem’.

Last month, Benny Peiser, the GWPF’s director, introduced a GWPF report by saying it was “extraordinary that anyone should think there is a climate crisis”.

The latest letter to the Charity Commission says that the GWPF is ‘not a charity but a fossil fuel lobby group’.

The MPs who have signed the letter are Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and Labour’s Nadia Whittome. The peers include Greens Natalie Bennett and Jenny Jones, and independent baroness Rosie Boycott.

Caroline Lucas wrote on twitter: “The Global Warming Policy Foundation is not a charity – it’s a lobby group for the climate-wrecking fossil fuel industry & should be treated as such. I joined others to write to @ChtyCommission to urge that GWPF should be stripped of charitable status”.

However, if the previous judgements of the Charity Commission are anything to go by, it may take a lot more than a single letter and a much stronger legal case for the Commission to review the GWPF’s status.

The Charity Commission has previously been sceptical of what it sees as ‘partisan complaints’, and any arguments that a charity has breached the commission’s guidelines will have to be based on sound legal arguments, backed up by evidence and research. There’s no doubt that the GWPF, given the pronouncements of some of its board members and former chairs, has produced misleading and inaccurate claims about climate change. In 2014 the Commission ruled that the GWPF had breached rules on impartiality in its climate change coverage, blurred fact and comment and demonstrated a clear bias.

With the GWPF now working closely with the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, a group of Tory MPs who have been pushing against net zero policies, it’s vitally important that any complaint against the GWPF are seen as more than just “a bunch of disgruntled academics and artists getting something off their chest”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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