Conservative MP urged to quit job as consultant for US “climate denier” fossil fuel company | Climate crisis

A Conservative MP was asked to quit his second job as a £ 325 an hour consultant for a US fossil fuel company after the company was accused of using “classic climate denial” tactics to delay action on the climate crisis.

Mark Pritchard, 55, a Conservative MP for Wrekin in Shropshire, assumed a “strategic communications council” role at Linden Energy Holdings in May, according to official records. He will be paid £ 46,800 a year to work 12 hours a month through his consulting firm, Map Advisory.

Documents obtained from Observer suggest that Texas-based Linden Energy, founded by a former George Bush lobbyist, has pushed for greater use of fossil fuels, minimizing the role of carbon emissions in the climate crisis.

In a November 2021 presentation titled “The Reality of Climate Change,” Linden Energy Chief Operating Officer Ray Leonard emphasizes non-human factors in global warming and says it is “virtually impossible” to avoid warming by 2 ° C by 2050, before supporting more investment in natural gas.

While there is no hint of wrongdoing, the findings have led to renewed calls for stricter rules on MPs’ second jobs, as well as new concerns about fossil fuel lobbies.

Scientists have warned of a potentially catastrophic climate collapse since the 1980s, but attempts by industry lobbyists to question the science have been blamed for delaying responses from governments around the world.

Last year, following a series of lobbying scandals, Boris Johnson lent his support to proposals to crack down on MPs who take second jobs as a consultant and lobbyist. The plans were subsequently abandoned.

This weekend, the Green Party called on Pritchard to step down from his role with Linden, while Edward Collins, a director of the thinktank InfluenceMap, which tracks polluting industry lobbies, described the matter as “very worrying.” “Tactics like keeping politicians on duty for advice are part of a well-developed playbook by the fossil fuel industry,” he said.

Linden Energy Holdings was founded in 2013 by Steve Payne, a former adviser to George W. Bush. He resigned in 2008 in a scandal that involved him in a secret recording that offered access to key White House figures in exchange for a $ 250,000 donation.

The company is believed to have several projects under consideration in Europe and last year bought a majority stake in Overgas, Bulgaria’s largest gas company. He has also led initiatives to exploit natural gas reserves in Africa, including drilling deep-sea exploration wells off the coast of Guinea.

Another company under Linden’s umbrella, Linden Strategies, specializes in government relations, strategic communications and policy consulting and has clients in a variety of industries. Its slogan is: “Complex problems. Discreet strategies. Winning results “. Payne is president of both companies.

In Linden Energy’s internal documents, intended as part of the company’s speech to potential customers, the company is accused of using “well-known climate retardation tactics” including “doomism,” the suggestion that global warming cannot be averted. , so mitigation is useless.

Linden’s presentation argues that avoiding a 2 ° C temperature increase by 2050 is “virtually impossible” and that the necessary steps “have no realistic chance of being accomplished.”

a natural gas storage facility in Bierwang in southern Germany.
The company urges the switch to natural gas. Photograph: Lennart Preiss / AFP / Getty Images

He also devotes several slides to the “many factors” that caused the climate crisis, emphasizing the “natural causes” and showing graphs of temperature changes over millions of years, despite the intergovernmental panel of climate change experts finding that nearly the 100% of the warming since the 1950s has been man-made.

The presentation concludes by calling for more investment in fossil fuels and says a transition to natural gas could make “the biggest difference now” in reducing carbon emissions. Natural gas is cleaner than oil and coal, but experts say all fossil fuels must be phased out.

Mark Maslin, professor of earth system sciences at University College London, said Linden Energy’s presentation was “riddled with mild denial” and appeared to be “a continuation” of the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to delay. action on the climate emergency. “He’s saying, ‘Oh well, it’s not really about greenhouse gases, so you don’t have to worry that much’ and ‘Climate change is happening but it’s impossible. [to avert], so let’s not worry. ‘ This is classic 101 denial, “he said.

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said it was unacceptable for an MP on duty to work for a company that “seemed to peddle climate denial designed to keep us all dependent on oil and gas” at a time when “the UK is seeing the effects of climate inaction,” with rising energy bills and extreme heat.

“The interests of fossil fuel companies should have no place at the heart of our democracy,” he said. “I would urge the government to force Pritchard to choose between his new job in the industry and his position as an MP.”

There are also questions as to why Pritchard’s role, listed in the register of MPs’ interests, was not declared until July. According to the rumor, he was first paid by Linden Energy on June 6. but he took over the role on May 1st.

MPs are required to register all relevant interests, not just financial ones, within 28 days, including “any interest that anyone could reasonably consider to influence their actions or words as MPs”.

Neither Pritchard nor Linden Energy Holdings responded to formal requests for comment. In a phone call with the ObserverRay Leonard said his views were shared by many and that his presentation did not emphasize non-human factors or used “climate denial” tactics, but “showed the data.”

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