The education charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation, chaired by the former cabinet minister Lord Lawson, will launch a non-charitable campaigning arm after the Charity Commission raised concerns over its activities.
GWPF was founded in the run-up to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit. It is "open-minded on the contested science of global warming" and "in no sense anti-environmental", according to its website. It had four staff, income of £362,632 and expenditure of £266,371 in the year to 31 July 2013.
A statement on the foundation’s website says: "The Global Warming Policy Foundation has decided to form a new non-charitable company, which will be able to conduct campaigns and activities which do not fall squarely within the educational remit of the charity."
The charity says it expects the organisation’s new dual structure to be live by the end of July, once the new organisation, to be called the Global Warming Policy Forum, has been launched. The forum will be responsible for some elements of the foundation’s website, in particular its news articles and opinion pieces, the foundation said in its statement.
The commission received a complaint about the charity in 2013 from Bob Ward, director of policy communications at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, part of the London School of Economics. The complaint concerned some of its statements and published material about climate change.
A spokeswoman for the regulator said it then held a meeting with the charity in October. "We advised the trustees that we did not consider that all the contents of the website advanced education, as required of a charity," she said.
"In addition, we had raised a question with the trustees about whether all the content of the website was in line with our guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities. At that time, we suggested that these elements of the website should be separated from the charity and hosted by an independent organisation," the spokeswoman said.
The proposed forum has been approved in principle by the commission, with all but "some of the nitty-gritty" still to be finalised, according to Benny Peiser, director of the foundation.
Peiser said that the dual structure "will run in exactly the same way as other organisations such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace. It’s an established structure".
Ward told Third Sector that he felt his complaint had not been adequately dealt with by the commission, and had since taken it to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
GWPF was one of the Charity Commission’s top 10 most-complained-about charities in the two years to March 2012.