Tory MP who called UK’s net zero goal ‘hard sell’ due to Beijing’s emissions took £3,000 from car firm operating in China

Exclusive: Brendan Clarke-Smith was one of a number of MPs to take part in a ‘Whatsapp tirade’ against Boris Johnson’s push for a ‘green revolution’

Daisy Dunne
Climate Correspondent
Friday 20 August 2021 07:01
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Related video: What is Cop26?

A Conservative politician who claimed that the UK’s net-zero goal would be a “hard sell” to voters because of inaction from China took a £3,000 donation from a motoring firm operating in the country, The Independent and DeSmog can reveal.

Brendan Clarke-Smith was one of a number of MPs to take part in a “Whatsapp tirade” against Boris Johnson’s push for a “green revolution” in the UK earlier this month, according to a report in The Sun.

In messages criticising Mr Johnson’s plans for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, Mr Clarke-Smith claimed that it was “a hard sell asking people to make sacrifices when the rest of the world, China/Russia etc, are carrying on as usual”.

"It can’t happen overnight – and others need to pull their weight, rather than us doing all the legwork,” he added.

But research by the environmental investigations outlet DeSmog has revealed that the MP for Bassetlaw in 2020 accepted £3,000 from IM Group, a UK import-export company whose automotive wing, International Motors Ltd, claims to work with “some of the largest vehicle manufacturers” in China.

The company, which is chaired by former Tory peer and billionaire motor trade entrepreneur Lord Edmiston, has an office in Beijing and employs 60 people across China, according to its website.

Zoe Nicholson, the Green Party’s Green New Deal spokesperson, told The Independent: “We often see those in the business of climate inaction point the finger at China.

“What makes this case particularly egregious is that here we have an MP who is himself profiting from increasing car sales in China.

“Like other MPs who benefit from non-executive directorships, donations and gifts in kind funded by the fossil fuel lobby, he is responsible for the lack of action on the climate crisis that has led us into a wholly avoidable existential crisis.”

The news comes as Mr Johnson is facing increasing opposition to his climate policies from the right wing of the Conservative Party.

A group of backbench Tory MPs is currently preparing to launch a challenge against Mr Johnson’s plans to meet the UK’s legal target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The “Net Zero Scrutiny Group” includes Brexiteer Steve Baker, who is a trustee of the UK’s most prominent climate denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), and Craig Mackinlay, an MP who has spoken out against the government’s 2030 ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars.

The group aims to question the “costs” associated with reaching net zero in the UK.

This is despite analysis from the UK’s independent climate advisers finding that the cost of achieving net zero would amount to just 0.5 per cent of annual GDP over the next 30 years.

Many studies also show that the cost of not taking action on the climate crisis will be far higher than the cost of implementing measures to rein in and adapt to rising emissions.

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said the actions of right-wing Tory MPs risk undermining the UK ahead of Cop26, the global climate summit taking place in Glasgow in November.

She told The Independent: “It’s worth reminding any MPs who may be questioning the UK’s climate commitments that the government’s world-leading net zero target was supported unanimously by the House of Commons.

“What the UK does at home will have a ripple effect across the rest of the world. Anyone genuinely committed to tackling the climate crisis needs to not undermine our government’s efforts at this critical moment.”

The Independent contacted Mr Clarke-Smith and IM Group for comment.

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