The current heatwave – still with no end in sight – is impacting globally. Drought conditions from the American mid-west to fires all over the world, the evidence is plain to see. No-one is yet saying that this is a man-made climate change event, despite the scientific consensus that this is the sort of thing we can expect in years to come. So there’s no better time to find out what’s really going on, and who better to consult than the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the registered ‘educational’ charity set up by Lord Lawson, our greatest post-war Chancellor of the Exchequer and/or dietician. I confess I’ve not visited their website before, so was immediately taken aback to see that things are getting cooler, according to the little graph that adorns their home page. Such a relief! Mind you, let’s add a word of caution. The graph only covers the period 2001 to 2017, not the more usual 1850 to the present day, often known as the ‘hockey stick’ due to its shape. Oh, I notice that actually, even on the GWPF graph, it appears that things are nearly half a degree warmer than only 16 years ago. My mistake! I need to turn it upside down!
The GWPF says it refuses to take donations from the energy sector. Their latest annual report says: “The Trustees are satisfied that the self-denying ordinance contained in the Protocol for the Acceptance of Gifts laid down at the first meeting of the Board of Trustees to ensure the Foundation's independence from energy, interests is being strictly observed.” (Their annual report is on the Charity Commission website) But the charity also says that because of the controversial nature of their activities, their donors’ names are to be kept secret. Well, well. The charity was set up in 2009 and by 2014 had received well over half a million pounds in donations. It was in 2014 that the Charity Commission stepped in – after representations – to tell the charity in an operational case report (here):
The commission found that taken as a whole, it was difficult not to form the conclusion that the publications and postings on the charity’s website promoted a particular position on global warming. The website could not be regarded as a comprehensive and structured educational resource sufficient to demonstrate public benefit. In areas of controversy, education requires balance and neutrality with sufficient weight given to competing arguments. The promotion of a particular view or position would not equate to education.
The Commission does not say the charity was acting ‘politically’ but I would. And I would question therefore why for the five years of its existence up to 2014 the GWPF still thinks it is entitled to keep its donors’ lists secret. For all of that period political parties, and others, have had to declare donations over £500. The GWPF has suggested that other groups which accept the case made about anthropogenic climate change need to be transparent. But at least for the five years when they were operating in a partisan way (according to the Charity Commission) they felt they were exempt from the transparency law everyone else is governed by. After 2014, the GWPF set up a separate legal entity (the GWP ‘Forum’) which could behave in a more partisan way, outside of the charity law framework.
Another thing I find odd – and why the trustees have to be held to account – is that the GWPF appears to be hoarding money. Its reserves policy states that reserves should cover expenditure ‘for at least one year.’ Its financial report for the year ending 30/9/17 says that reserves now stand at £743,959 – and they have consistently grown over the years. Annual expenditure was £242,846, which is not out of the ordinary. Why this disproportionately large reserve? A registered charity is supposed to devote its finances to its purpose, not to its bank balance. The trustees don’t seem to be following their own policy. This is a detail, but encourages me to question whether this body should be a charity at all, with all the tax advantages that bestows. Or perhaps they're worried that as the climate change evidence mounts, their financial backers may have second thoughts.
And I wonder where their graph will end up this time next year.