On Monday, the Twitter handle for GWPF disappeared unannounced, to be replaced by the new campaign group, which it says seeks to “highlight the serious economic and societal implications of expensive and poorly considered climate and energy policies”.
It comes at the same time as Conservative MPs Steve Baker and Craig Mackinlay appear to have soft launched the parliamentary backbench Net Zero Scrutiny Group, which was rumoured about earlier this year. Yesterday, Baker made an appearance on news channel GB News, where he was described as the group leader - though this contradicts briefings given in the summer where Mackinlay was trailed as the driving force behind it.
In a blog written by Baker, published on the Net Zero Watch website, he says that the UK’s plans to decarbonise the economy “are a classic example of the ancient political strategy of ‘winging it’”.
“Hard though it is to credit that idea, it’s true; the ‘experts’ in Westminster have been basing your future and mine on a plan that relies, to a very great extent, on a collective crossing of the fingers”, he wrote.
Speaking to Politico, Benny Peiser, director at the GWPF - and subsequently of the Net Zero Watch campaign - said that the group sees in the net zero discussion a chance to return from the fringes of public debate - acknowledging that the public would no longer agree that climate change is not a serious problem.
According to Peiser, “dozens” of MPs have inquired about the new campaign.
With the GWPF’s new pivot, and Baker’s championing of the Net Zero Watch campaign, Richard Black, author of ‘Denied - the Rise and Fall of Climate Contrarianism’ told Politico that climate advocates should take it "seriously", noting that the group’s “tactics and rhetoric are clearly designed to have populist appeal”.
When rumour initially swirled about the nascent Net Zero Scrutiny Group in July, green groups did not express serious concerns about it, noting to ENDS that Steve Baker’s reputation is said to have taken a hit following his role in the lockdown-sceptic backbench Covid Recovery Group. Nonetheless, NGO coalition group Green Alliance’s senior political adviser, Joe Tetlow, said at the time that he would neither “overestimate or dismiss” its potential.
Commenting to ENDS in August, the Labour Party said the prime minister “should distance himself from the climate sceptics on his backbenches” and that giving “credence to the views” of those questioning the need to deliver net zero to protect people and planet “risks seriously undermining the UK's credibility as hosts of COP26”.