New Energy Secretary linked to oil-funded think tank

OpenDemocracy gave the think tank the lowest possible funding transparency rating

Claire Coutinho

Rishi Sunak’s newly appointed Energy Secretary has raised questions over her links to a fossil fuel funded think tank that targeted climate protesters through tougher laws.

In a mini-shuffle last week, Rishi Sunak replaced Grant Shapps with the lesser known Tory MP Claire Coutinho. Coutinho is understood to be exceptionally close to the Prime Minister and boasts work pre-politics in investment banking and accountancy.

She was also previously senior fellow at Policy Exchange, a group which has received funding from the largest oil company in the US, ExxonMobil, along with several UK oil and energy companies, OpenDemocracy reported.

Exxon spent more than $37 million on funding groups promoting climate denial in the US from 1997 to 2008, whilst another of the think tank’s funders is a UK energy industry lobbying group.

Policy Exchange also helped write the UK’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act which sought to crack down on climate activists. OpenDemocracy revealed how they had explicitly stated in a report that the law should target Extinction Rebellion protesters.

The think tank also received the lowest possible transparency rating in an OpenDemocracy ‘Who Funds You?’ project last year.

The newly appointed Net Zero Minister gave a speech this July for the think tank on free speech and contributed to a report for them on international UK strategy in 2020.

She has also previously worked for the right-wing think tank Centre for Social Justice, which was behind Universal Credit and has called for the state pension age to be pushed up to 75 years.

Caroline Lucas pointed out that the new Energy Secretary has mentioned climate change a total of three times in parliamentary debates, ‘not exactly inspiring my confidence’ wrote the former Green Party leader.

(Image credit: UK Parliament – Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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