A group of politicians, scientists and celebrities have called for the Charity Commission to remove the charitable status of a think tank founded by the former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson.
The climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion has published an open letter to the regulator, which claims the Global Warming Policy Foundation is “not a charity but a fossil fuel lobby group”.
The letter has been signed by a long list of people including the musician Alison Goldfrapp; Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion; the fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood; the actor Juliet Stevenson; and the journalist George Monbiot, plus a host of academics and writers.
It claims that both the charitable and political wings of the GWPF have been receiving funding from fossil fuel interests, citing one donor foundation that it says has millions of pounds' worth of shares in a raft of major energy companies.
“Scientists are telling us that climate devastation due to fossil fuels is already changing our world unalterably for the worse,” it says.
“We believe that when we look back at these times, it will appear unspeakable that we allowed organisations like the GWPF – secretly funded by vested interest groups – to block our progress in addressing this the most urgent issue of our time.
“This is the very definition of work against public interest. Now that these findings are in the public domain, we urge the Charity Commission to fulfil its remit and remove the charitable status of the GWPF.”
It is extremely unlikely the regulator would take such a step, given that it is generally only able to take a charity off the register in limited circumstances such as where it has ceased operating, and not as a sanction.
The GWPF said in a statement that claims it was in breach of its funding policy by accepting donations from anyone with a significant interest in an energy company were false and unfounded.
It said in the statement: “We do not accept donations from anyone with a significant interest in an energy company.
“We turn down any offers of funding from people with a vested interest in energy companies. We believe this goes further than many other environmental groups who receive money from the renewable energy industry.”
A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “We have received the letter and will assess all of the information shared with us to inform any next steps.”