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Latest 11 November 2022

MPs call for investigation into misuse of funds by a 55 Tufton Street charity

Good Law Project has today supported a cross-party group of MPs including Caroline Lucas, Layla Moran and Clive Lewis in urging the Charity Commission to investigate potential wrongdoing by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

Part of the Tufton Street group, GWPF has been criticised multiple times over the years for its reliance on anonymous donors, while recent reports have revealed financial links between the charity’s funders and the fossil fuel industry.

Today’s letter – based on investigation and analysis by specialist charity lawyers – highlights conduct on the part of GWPF’s trustees which could amount to mismanagement and breaches of duty.

This includes several hundred thousand pounds’ worth of spending on one-sided research and a financial relationship between GWPF and its non-charitable subsidiary Net Zero Watch (NZW) which appears to breach key protections of charity law.

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“Net Zero Watch is not a charity, it’s a lobby group for the climate-wrecking fossil fuel industry and it should be treated as such. Public money cannot and must not fund the blatant denial of overwhelming global scientific evidence that we are in a climate emergency,” said Caroline Lucas MP.

GWPF was launched in 2009 by former Conservative Chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson, who, in an article last year, called global warming a ‘nonexistent problem’, and questioned whether the climate crisis is ‘quasi-religious hysteria, based on ignorance’. GWPF has been described by the London School of Economics as ‘the UK’s main club for climate change deniers’.

Individuals connected to the group are reported to have given sizable donations to candidates in this summer’s Conservative leadership race, while reports show a GWPF funder and a former trustee and director could be set to receive peerages.

“The main function of these sinister organisations is to be masks behind which their unattractive funders and venal purposes can hide,” said Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project.

“That is bad enough. But, to top it all, because the Charity Commission is asleep at the wheel or deliberately looks the other way, we must subsidise those unknown funders and purposes with our taxes.”

GWPF was previously investigated by the Commission in 2014, which concluded that its activities as a registered educational charity promoted a particular position on global warming which “would not equate to education”.

A new, non-charitable organisation – Global Warming Policy Forum, renamed Net Zero Watch (NZW) in 2021 – was formed in September 2014 to act as a campaigning organisation so GWPF could focus on its charitable objectives.

There are often arrangements where Charity X pursues its charitable objects by funding the work of Non-charity Y – sometimes X and Y are related, sometimes they are not. The difference here is that GWPF (Charity X) appears to be funding activities of NZW (Non-charity Y) which are not furthering any charitable aim. This opaque use of tax breaks is of grave concern.

“The principles of openness, transparency, and accountability are vital for all businesses, political organisations, and charities. One charity misusing its funds and acting outside the rules is a blight on the whole sector,” said Layla Moran MP.

Clive Lewis MP added: “I am deeply concerned about the conclusions reached by lawyers in our letter today, exposing what could be a serious breach of charity law.

“It is vital that the Charity Commission acts swiftly to ensure the Global Warming Policy Foundation can no longer abuse its charity status to pursue one-sided, political lobbying downplaying the climate crisis.”

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You can read the letter from Caroline Lucas MP, Layla Moran MP and Clive Lewis MP here.

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