Donations from supporters with links to oil and gas helped fund new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Ready4Rishi leadership campaign – as he says he’s too busy to attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt
Donors with fossil fuel links helped fund Rishi Sunak’s race for No 10. Over a quarter of the £530,000 donated to the new Prime Minister this year was from supporters with interests in oil, gas and aviation.
It raised fresh questions over Mr Sunak’s commitment to tackling climate change and put his refusal to attend COP27 next month under the spotlight.
Shadow Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband blasted: “ Rishi Sunak is on the side of the big oil and gas companies, not the British people. We’ve seen it time and again including him refusing a proper windfall tax on the rocketing profits of these energy giants.
“Now he’s missing in from the big international climate meeting. An absent PM choosing to protect the huge profits of big oil and gas firms will never tackle the energy bills and climate crises we face, and will never deliver the energy independence we need.”
Mr Sunak accepted donations totalling £141,000 this year from supporters with oil and gas ties. Many of the payments were for his failed Ready4Rishi summer leadership bid against Liz Truss.
He also accepted the use of carbon-spewing private jets for campaign meet-and-greets.
After taking over from Ms Truss this week the new PM said he will be “too busy” to go to next month’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt – which it is believed his predecessor had planned to attend.
He has reportedly upheld her advice to the King not to go, and has axed COP president Alok Sharma ’s seat in Cabinet.
Lib Dem climate spokesman Wera Hobhouse said: “It seems Rishi Sunak’s road to Downing Street was bankrolled by donors with links to fossil fuels. No wonder he’s failing to take climate change and the transition to net zero seriously.
“Sunak is trashing the UK’s reputation as a leader in tackling climate change. His failure to attend COP shows a disregard for the need to protect the planet for our children and grandchildren.”
Over a quarter of the £530,000 donated to Mr Sunak this year was bankrolled by companies and individuals with links to oil, gas and aviation, analysis reveals.
It includes £15,000 from ex-Tory treasurer Lord Michael Farmer, a hedge fund trader with shareholdings in Royal Dutch Shell and BP and who also gave Mr Sunak the use of a private jet for his campaign – a benefit-in-kind of £23,470.
Tory grandee Michael Spencer gave £25,000 to Ready4Rishi. His holding company, IPLG, has a 40% stake in Cluff Energy Africa, which prospects for oil in West Africa.
Sir Mick Davis, ex-boss of mining firm Xstrata, gave Mr Sunak £25,000. Hedge fund manager James Diner offered a private plane for a trip worth £5,100. And two businessmen linked to a wealth management fund that invests in the oil and gas sectors made donations of £30,000.
There is no suggestion Mr Sunak did anything wrong in accepting the donations, which were in line with the ministerial code. But the fossil fuel links clash with the Tories’ vow to reach net-zero by 2050.
The Conservative Party has directly received £1.3million in donations from companies with fossil fuel links and climate change sceptic organisations between December 2019 and October 2021. Mr Sunak’s voting record on climate issues was the worst of all this summer’s leadership contenders.
The ex-Goldman Sachs analyst, one of the richest MPs after marrying a billionaire’s daughter, has “almost always” voted against measures to curb climate change, according to TheyWorkFor You.
As Chancellor his budget statements barely mentioned the issue. In February, he reportedly asked then-Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to fast-track approval of six new oil and gas fields in the North Sea.
And in April, Mr Sunak was said to have blocked plans for hundreds of millions of pounds to be spent on making homes more energy efficient.
The Sunday Mirror revealed in August how Mr Sunak was accused of a conflict of interest over his wife’s links to Shell. Akshata Murty owns a £690m stake in her dad’s firm Infosys, which signed a deal with the oil giant last year. Although a minority shareholder in the Indian tech firm, she got an estimated £11.5m in dividend payments in the last year.
Her spokesman has said she “has no involvement in the operational decisions” of the firm.
A spokesman for the Government said: “We are fully committed to the legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“The UK is leading the world on climate change and between 1990 and 2019 we have grown our economy 76% while cutting emissions over 44%, decarbonising faster than any other G7 country. Our Net Zero Review will help ensure our fight against climate change maximises growth, energy security and affordability.”
A UN study this week warned current climate commitments are not enough to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C.
Climate scientist Prof Johan Rockström said: “Time is really running out very, very fast.’
Boris Johnson is planning to attend COP27, The Observer reports today.
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