Cabinet Ministers Join Outspoken Climate Science Deniers at National Conservatism Conference

Original article by Joey Grostern and Adam Barnett republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines.

It is ‘deeply concerning’ that Suella Braverman, Michael Gove, and a raft of Tory MPs are speaking alongside anti-green forces, say opposition politicians

By Joey Grostern and Adam Barnett on May 15, 2023

Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Credit: Simon Dawson / 10 Downing Street, CC BY 2.0

The National Conservatism (NatCon) conference kicks off today in Westminster, London, featuring a roster of high-profile speakers drawn from the upper reaches of the government and the conservative right. 

A DeSmog analysis has found climate denial and a hostility to net zero to be a common feature among many of the individuals speaking at the three-day summit. 

The gathering comes as Rishi Sunak’s government – which is already off track to meet the UK’s climate commitments – pursues new fossil fuel extraction, and prominent figures in the right-wing media continue to cast doubt over net zero policy. 

The NatCon conference is being organised by the US-based think tank the Edmund Burke Foundation (EBF) and intends to catalyse a “revival” of a political philosophy based on “national identity and culture” alongside “god and country”.

While energy and climate policy is oddly absent from the agenda, many of the speakers and their parent organisations have a record of hostility to climate action, a scepticism of climate science, and interests in fossil fuels.

The event features keynote speeches from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove. Braverman ran for Tory leader last year vowing to “suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve Net Zero by 2050”. They will be joined by David Frost, a Conservative peer and a director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s most prominent climate science denial group. 

Fellow conference speakers also include Lee Anderson, Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party, who has claimed that people are “sick to death” of net zero, and former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has said that taking action on climate change is “unrealistic” because “it would have no effect for hundreds or possibly a thousand years.”

Another speaker is Conservative MP John Hayes, a former energy minister who received £150,000 between 2018 and 2020 from Lebanon-based oil company BB Energy for work as a “strategic advisor”. Also in attendance will be Conservative MPs Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates, and Conservative peer Daniel Hannan.

Cates used her speech to claim that “epidemic levels of anxiety and confusion” among young people are being caused by “culture, schools and universities” teaching that “our country is racist, our heroes are villains, [and] humanity is killing the Earth.”

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat Climate Spokesperson, told DeSmog: “It is deeply concerning to learn that Conservative ministers would attend a conference with climate deniers who stand in the way of progress.

“We need leaders who are committed to finding solutions to this crisis, not those betraying the trust of the people they were elected to serve by ignoring the overwhelming evidence of climate change.”

The selection of high-profile MPs, peers, and ministers are attending the NatCon conference despite Conservative backbencher Daniel Kawczynski having been reprimanded by the party in 2020 for speaking at a NatCon conference in Rome alongside far-right politicians. 

“Daniel Kawczynski has been formally warned that his attendance at this event was not acceptable, particularly in light of the views of some of those in attendance,” the Conservative Party said at the time. Kawczynski spoke alongside Hungary’s far-right prime minister Viktor Orban and other far-right figures from across the EU.

The Edmund Burke Foundation

NatCon conferences have been running since 2016 and have featured radical right-wing politicians, academics and journalists from across the world, including former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, and Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni.

The EBF, which has organised the conferences since 2021, is a US think tank founded in 2019 under the founding principle that “public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honoured by the state and other institutions both public and private.” 

NatCon conference chairman Christopher DeMuth, who is co-chairing this week’s London conference, has previously expressed climate science denial and is tied to a number of think tanks that have opposed climate action.

DeMuth served as president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) from 1986 to 2006, an influential conservative think tank whose representatives have consistently cast doubt on humanity’s contribution to climate change. 

The AEI has received over £2.9 million ($3,615,000) from ExxonMobil since 1998, and over £1.6 million ($2 million) from foundations related to petrochemicals giant Koch Industries from 2004 to 2017. 

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch drew criticism for meeting the AEI in November. Her predecessor Liz Truss met with the group in 2018.  

In 2001, DeMuth wrote in the AEI’s Energy Crunch publication that “The Kyoto Treaty Deserved to Die”, and cast doubt on climate science. He wrote: “Although it is fairly well-established that the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed somewhat (one degree Fahrenheit) during the past century, it’s not clear why this happened.” 

“Whatever the causes, we don’t know if future warming trends will be large or small, or whether the net environmental and economic consequences (including both beneficial and harmful effects) may be large or small,” he added. 

It’s not clear whether DeMuth’s views towards climate science have evolved since. However, at the 2022 EU NatCon conference, he praised the contested science that emerged during the Covid pandemic and appeared to contrast this with a too-eager scientific consensus over man-made climate change. “The climate-change mantra of ‘the science is settled’ never got traction in a genuine crisis,” he said.

DeMuth is also a distinguished fellow of The Hudson Institute, a group which has reportedly worked to defeat climate bills in Congress. The group received more than £6.3 million ($7.9 million) in funding from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2011 and 2013 – two opaque groups that have provided finance for anti-green causes.

DeMuth is also on the Alliance of Market Solutions board of advisors – an organisation of “conservative leaders” that aims to build support for policies that “protect the environment and deregulate and grow the economy.”

Another keynote speaker at the conference is Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation – a hub of opposition to climate action. The think tank, which influenced the policy of the Reagan administration, has platformed high-profile climate deniers such as the late S. Fred Singer, and received over £4.9 million ($6.1 million) from groups linked to the Koch family between 1997 and 2017. 

The Heritage Foundation’s Vice President for Outreach, Andrew Olivastro, will also be speaking at the NatCon conference. Olivastro has said that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing – based on standards measuring a business’s impact on society and the environment – “is a direct assault on the heart and soul of the free market economy”.

‘Doom Mongering Propaganda’

The London conference will also play host to a number of British speakers who have refuted the scientific consensus on climate change in recent years.

Keynote speaker Douglas Murray, Associate Editor at The Spectator, argued in 2020 that “terrible policy decisions” were being made due to “the false belief that we are seeing an increase in catastrophic weather events.”

A Carbon Brief analysis of 504 scientific articles examining the link between climate change and extreme weather events found that 71 percent of the events and their underlying trends were made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change.

Elsewhere, Murray claimed that educating children about climate change was akin to “terrifying our children with doom mongering propaganda” which “is nothing less than abuse.”

Speaker Melanie Phillips, a regular contributor to the The Daily Mail, The Spectator and The Times, wrote in 2022 that “there is no evidence that anything is happening to the world’s climate that lies outside historic fluctuations.” 

She continued by arguing that “net zero has been a major contributor to Britain’s soaring fuel prices and the cost of living crisis, which played an outsize role in defenestrating Boris Johnson by turning the public against him.”

Daily Telegraph columnist Sherelle Jacobs, who will also speak at the event, argued in 2019 that “CO2 emissions may not be the only reason for warming.”

She added: “sidelining studies that have, for example, found the natural climate system can suddenly shift, and ridiculing researchers who explore other possible variables – from solar changes to volcanoes – could be driving us further from the truth.”

Beyond climate science denial, many of the conference’s speakers have attacked green policies, with a particular focus on net zero. 

Along with Lord Frost, the conference will host Gwythian Prins, a member of the GWPF’s academic advisory council. In 2021, Prins argued that “net zero agenda hands geopolitical control to China,” because green policies “attempt to defy the laws of thermodynamics.”

Toby Young, Editor of the Daily Sceptic, will also be speaking at the conference. Young wrote in The Spectator in 2022 that, “it’s not the fact of climate change that I’m sceptical about, but the claim that it’s anthropogenic [caused by humans]. I think that could be true, but the evidence isn’t compelling enough to justify the net-zero policy.”

A number of climate consensus studies conducted between 2004 and 2015 found that between 90 percent and 100 percent of experts agree that humans are responsible for climate change. A study published in 2021, which reviewed over 3,000 scientific papers, found that over 99 percent of climate science literature says that global warming is caused by human activity.

“There is no scientific evidence or method that can determine how much of the warming we’ve had since 1900 was directly caused by humans,” Young told DeSmog. “What we do know is that temperatures have varied widely over the last 600 million years, along with levels of greenhouse gases, and these natural forces did not stop operating at the start of the last century.

Young questioned the validity of studies that cite near unanimous agreement among scientists on climate change. “Science is a process, not a consensus. The unproven hypothesis that humans have caused all or most climate change since the Industrial Revolution does not lend itself to a yes or no answer. The debate is over how much or how little humans are responsible for”.

The National Conservatism website also recommends a number of books which dispute the scientific consensus on climate change. Of the 41 books listed on the website and reviewed for this article, 14 contain passages that either refute climate science, criticise climate action, or demonise those calling for climate action.

Legatum’s Presence

A number of speakers at the conference also have links to Legatum – the Dubai-based investment fund behind the broadcaster GB News, which regularly platforms views that are hostile to climate science and net zero. Legatum also funds the Legatum Institute think tank, which received over £61,000 ($77,000) from a Koch Industries foundation in 2018.

“Legatum is an investor in GB News, a platform which hosts individuals with views on both sides of the argument,” a Legatum spokesperson said. “GB News supports media plurality in the UK, bringing fresh perspectives to the national conversation.”

Five of the UK NatCon speakers are on the advisory board of The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship, a Legatum-funded enterprise, founded by Jordan Peterson and dedicated to empowering “responsible citizenship” by drawing “on our moral, cultural, economic and spiritual foundations.” ARC members speaking at the conference include: the Conservative MPs Cates, Hayes, and Kruger, EBF UK chair James Orr, and UnHerd columnist Louise Perry.

Fred de Fossard, who heads a research unit at the Legatum Institute and acted as a special advisor to Jacob Rees-Mogg between 2020 and 2022, will also be speaking at the conference. 

Rees-Mogg is now a GB News host, as is Tory deputy chair Anderson. They will be joined at the NatCon conference by fellow GB News host Darren Grimes, who has used his TV platform to demand a Brexit-style referendum on the UK’s net zero target, which he called “an asphyxiating straitjacket bound around the body of Britain”.

“This collective of climate deniers should have representatives of this government nowhere near it – yet multiple cabinet ministers aren’t merely in attendance, they’re keynote speakers,” Green Party MP Caroline Lucas told DeSmog. “Ministerial links to this conference wipe away any remaining shred of this government’s climate credibility. It’s time to kick toxic fossil fuel interests out of politics once and for all.”

Original article by Joey Grostern and Adam Barnett republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines.

Continue ReadingCabinet Ministers Join Outspoken Climate Science Deniers at National Conservatism Conference

Extinction Rebellion paints Michael Gove’s office black over Cumbria coal mine decision

Image: William Joshua Templeton / Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion protests Michael Gove’s decision to allow coal mining at Whitehaven, Cumbria at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in London.  The mine is UK’s first new deep coal mine for 30 years.

Sarah Hart, a mother of two from Farnborough said: “2022 saw record global greenhouse gas emissions, and record global temperatures. Where is the government’s ambition to act on this Climate and Ecological Emergency? How dare they even think of opening a coal mine now? Gove claims this mine is carbon neutral but he completely ignores the emissions from burning the coal. We demand an end to all new fossil fuel projects.”

Dorothea Hackman, a 70 year old grandmother from Camden said: “Opening a coal mine today means the UK can’t argue that China and India should decrease their own coal emissions. Whitehaven coal isn’t even wanted by British steelworks, it’s going to be exported, there is no argument for domestic production.”

Extinction Rebellion is inviting everyone to Westminster from 21 April 2023 to demand a fair society and a citizen-led end to the fossil fuel era. ​Find out more about The Big One.

Continue ReadingExtinction Rebellion paints Michael Gove’s office black over Cumbria coal mine decision

Friends of the Earth takes legal action against government over new coalmine in Cumbria

Environmental campaign group, Friends of the Earth, is taking legal action against the UK government following its recent decision to grant planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The claim will be filed later this month and will focus on the harmful impacts to the environment from the coalmine. Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel.

The other main opponent of the mine, South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC), is also considering legal action and sent a letter to the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, in December seeking more information and setting out some of the errors in law in his decision. 

Niall Toru, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said: “By giving the go-ahead to this polluting and totally unnecessary coal mine the government has not only made the wrong decision for our economy and the climate, we believe it has also acted unlawfully.

Continue ReadingFriends of the Earth takes legal action against government over new coalmine in Cumbria

Go-ahead for controversial Cumbria coal mine sparks climate dismay

Ministers have approved the opening of the first new British coal mine in a generation in a decision has horrified environmentalists and risks fresh revolt by Conservative MPs.

The Woodhouse Colliery project, near Whitehaven in Cumbria, has sparked fierce opposition from local people and environmentalists, including the president of the COP26 climate change summit, former cabinet minister Alok Sharma.

Green groups warn that the new pit will damage the UK’s reputation internationally and undermine its ability to persuade others to make sacrifices to tackle global warming.

The former chief executive of British Steel Ron Deelan agreed: “This is a completely unnecessary step for the British steel industry, which is not waiting for more coal as there is enough on the free market available.

Continue ReadingGo-ahead for controversial Cumbria coal mine sparks climate dismay

Open Letter to Liz Truss on ‘Anti Growth’ – XR co-founder, Gail Bradbrook

Dear Liz Truss,

In your recent speech at the Conservative party conference you mentioned growth 29 times; said “I will not allow the anti-growth coalition to hold us back” and named Extinction Rebellion as part of this coalition.

Thank you for opening up this critical conversation. We appreciate the opportunity to share our understanding and we hope many others will join us for a grown up conversation in these urgent times. 

We know that members of your party understand our concerns, and are also worried about your economic ideology. When we met Michael Gove in 2019 he said:

“We have had an economic model for generations which has been extractive and exploitative, and in the same way as we’ve created debt fuelled economic growth that creates a burden for the next generation, so our approach towards natural resources has had to change and we’re wrestling as a government with how to do that, how to move towards a more circular economy. And also how to re think different parts of our economy, and again we may disagree over the imperative or the importance placed on growth, but certainly how we can achieve a greater degree of human flourishing and at the same time be more respectful to the limited resources that the earth has and critically also recognise that its not simply about drawing down resources, the earth is a system, our environment is a system of which we are a part and if we do violence to it then we are doing violence to ourselves, we are hacking at the tree of life.”  

There are many forms of growth that are beneficial. Specific sectors of our economy badly need to grow, for example homegrown sources of renewable energy. A sector that would do so much better if this supposed free market was not distorted by the vast subsidies the UK gives to fossil fuels.

However, the data is clear, growth for growth’s sake, without limits, without purpose, is destroying life on earth. When unfettered growth happens in a human body we call it cancer. Economic growth is only beneficial up to a certain point, beyond which it is harmful to people and planet. Economic growth is lucrative to those who are already wealthy (who unsurprisingly then insist on keeping it as the focus). Trickle down economics has failed us for a long time, everyone knows it’s just an out of date idea, not a realistic method that improves the lives of the general public. When we are measuring GDP we would best consider it a measure of the Gross Destruction of the Planet by the Greedy Death Project! 

Do you not agree when Margaret Thatcher said “We should always remember that free markets are a means to an end. They would defeat their object if by their output they did more damage to the quality of life through pollution than the well-being they achieve by the production of goods and services”

Extinction Rebellion are calling for a Well Being economy, which has a clear and measured purpose to maximise wellness and minimise harm; at home and across the world. There is no shortage of fantastic ideas about how to achieve that, including ideas to support circular uses of materials whilst staying within planetary and social boundaries. We love imaginative ideas, such as regenerative finance and mission based economics; where there could be a focus of our specific strengths on tackling major challenges together, making use of the innovation and delivery capabilities in business and markets, the organising capacities of our civil service, the intellect of our academics. We are a wealthy country, we could afford to pay for universal basic services and lead the world on tackling the climate and ecological crisis. And Extinction Rebellion champions assemblies of ordinary people, to think together with experts about how to make this vital transition.

Because it doesn’t matter how attached your Government is, Ms. Truss, to a specific form of free market ideology. Physics and ecology are ultimately in charge and the life support systems of the earth are starting to tip. Doubling down on the extraction of fossil fuels commits our children and grandchildren here and globally to lives where food production fails and civilisation  collapses. We charge that members of your Government, who are making decisions now, against the advice of scientists and international bodies, are committing crimes against humanity. 

We see truths shared from many quarters. King Charles has said “We need nothing short of a paradigm shift, one that inspires action at revolutionary levels and pace.” The Chief Executive of Shell Ben Van Beurden recently called for a windfall tax and  Philip Kotler, father of modern  marketing called for Degrowth (the academic term for an economy focussed on Wellbeing) In October 2018 the IPCC said that limiting global warming would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. 

People will become increasingly desperate in this country as the consequences of years of terrible choices come home and impact us all. Choices to sell off our assets, to poison our food, air and water; while at the same time we failed to invest in homegrown renewables and insulate homes. We are left with little security and a cost of living scandal. Over 20,000 people in the UK already died unnecessarily this year since April. Those with the least responsibility for these crises are suffering in the millions, battered and uprooted by climate disasters, from the Horn of Africa, to Bangladesh, to Mozambique, to Pakistan.

We see the callousness and the corruption and the refusal to face reality. Those of us who have the capacity and the conscience will do all we can to stop this death machine. There are a growing number of people who just can’t pay the bills that are mounting and others who won’t work for poverty wages, unable to make ends meet despite their hard work (though I understand you, Liz Truss, think British workers “need more graft”). We will strike bill payments in solidarity and strength, and we will not let you frack the British countryside, poison the water and the people.

Yes, we are uniting, because we believe in our shared humanity, we love our country, and this Earth, and we are willing to take responsibility, whether that comes at a cost to us, on behalf of our collective wellbeing. 

A key aspect of civil disobedience is a belief in the need to talk. I would welcome a dialogue with yourself or colleagues – please be in touch!


Gail Bradbrook

Dr. Gail Bradbrook, Co-Founder Extinction Rebellion

Notes for Editors

  2.  A systematic review of the evidence on decoupling of GDP, resource use and GHG emissions, part I: bibliometric and conceptual mapping; Tim Parrique Limits to Growth review 
  3.  When countries have low GDP, economic growth brings a high marginal benefit. But, for developed countries with high GDP, the marginal benefit of economic growth is lower. There is a diminishing marginal utility of extra income and at higher levels, the problems of growth may outweigh the benefits. 
  4.  The academic term is Degrowth – eg see Jason Hickel Less is More, etc
  5.  Circular Economy eg
  6.  Doughnut Economics
  7. Eg 
  8.  Mariana Mazzucato 
  9.  UBS eg; Calls for UK to not drop its commitments :
  12. Philip Kotler, father of modern marketing, supports degrowth:
Continue ReadingOpen Letter to Liz Truss on ‘Anti Growth’ – XR co-founder, Gail Bradbrook