Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch dined with anti-climate lobbyists in US

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Original article by Adam Bychawski republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Minister had secret meeting with oil-backed think tank that warned UK government not to listen to climate scientists

Badenoch has previously said she would delay the UK’s net zero goals. 06/09/2022. London, United Kingdom. Official Cabinet Portrait; Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade – Kemi Badenoch.

Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch met secretly with a US think tank that has taken millions of dollars from climate denial groups and claimed it would be “irresponsible” for the UK to follow climate science, openDemocracy can reveal.

Badenoch met representatives of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which campaigners say has a long track record of “distorting” climate science, for dinner in November while on an official visit to the US.

Scant details of the meeting were published by Badenoch’s department last week, as the minister’s Indo-Pacific trade deal faced criticism for “making a mockery” of UK pledges to tackle deforestation.

The AEI, which also met with Liz Truss in 2018 when she was trade secretary, has sown doubt over climate change science, describing a landmark 2021 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as “alarmist” and “deeply dubious”. 

The IPCC report was produced by the world’s leading climate scientists and concluded that the world was approaching “irreversible” levels of global heating, with catastrophic impacts rapidly becoming inevitable

But Benjamin Zycher and Peter J Wallison, senior fellows at the AEI, played down its findings by claiming that “we don’t understand all the elements in the complex climate system – the effects of clouds alone are understood poorly”. 

The authors, neither of whom have backgrounds in science, added that it would be “beyond irresponsible” for governments to adopt policies on the basis of the report. 

The think tank also separately criticised COP 26, the annual UN climate conference hosted by the UK in 2021, with one of its authors claiming that delegates spread a “false narrative” that urgent action is required to tackle climate change.

Researchers have found that AEI has received more than $330m in donations from climate denial groups since 2008, including $4.8m from US oil giant ExxonMobil. 

A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson told openDemocracy that Badenoch meets “all sorts of stakeholders that have different views – it’s no different to what it’s like in the UK”.

“There are various think tanks in Westminster that have sceptical views about climate change and ministers meet these people all the time,” they added.

The department has refused a Freedom of Information request by openDemocracy for minutes of the meeting with the AEI on grounds that there were “closed discussions under the Chatham House rule” – meaning that their contents are secret.

Badenoch also gave a speech at another US think tank, the Cato Institute, during her official visit in November. The institute was founded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, one of the top funders of climate denial in the US. Cato is “focused on disputing the science behind global warming and questioning the rationale for taking action”, according to Greenpeace US

The minister, who was beaten by Liz Truss in the first of last year’s Conservative leadership elections, gave a speech promoting free trade at the institute’s headquarters in Washington DC in which she hinted that some policies to tackle climate change could “impoverish” the UK. 

“We all know that climate change is a challenge for us all, wherever we live in the world. But we know that we can and should solve it by using free trade and investment to accelerate the technological progress that will protect the planet,” she claimed. 

“And something that not enough politicians say: we must do this, we must protect the planet in a way that does not impoverish the UK, the US or, let’s be honest, any other country,” she said.

During her unsuccessful campaign for the Tory leadership, Badenoch came out against the UK’s net zero target, describing the policy as “unilateral economic disarmament”. She told the Telegraph she “believe[s] in climate change” but said “there is a better way of going about these things”. 

The American Enterprise Institute has been approached for comment.

A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson said: “Claiming that speaking to a particular think tank implies adopting every one of their policy positions is treating the public like fools. The Secretary of State visited Washington DC to emphasise the importance of trade as a force for security and prosperity, including green trade and investment, and to promote the UK’s high-talent, business-friendly environment and highly innovative economy.”

Original article by Adam Bychawski republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

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