(Mar. 7 story updated on Mar. 30 to reflect new information regarding Farage’s relationship with DGB)
Nigel Farage, one of the architects of Brexit, is calling for another UK referendum, this time on the country’s climate change plans, as reports surface that his advisory relationship with a Dutch offsetting firm has been put on hold.
Nigel Farage, former MEP and leader of the UK Independence Party, over the weekend launched his campaign to force the British government to put its 2050 net zero emissions strategy to a national vote.
Supporters welcomed the move, arguing that the UK should start fracking and seeking other ways to use fossil fuels to achieve energy security in the face of soaring gas, power, and petrol prices amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But opponents said this would lead to many lost jobs and would deter badly-needed investment in the UK, all while leaving Britain even more vulnerable to international fuel prices and doing little to actually boost the country’s energy supply.
The campaign will be led by the Britain Means Business group, which Farage co-founded with fellow Brexit-backing businessman Richard Tice.
“Net Zero is net stupid … It is a scandal of epic proportions and it must be challenged,” Farage said in a piece carried by the Daily Mail newspaper.
“By taking Britain down its ruinous path, the political class in Westminster has made a decision on behalf of the rest of us without any public debate being held, saddling taxpayers with a debt that few politicians are brave enough to quantify publicly and even fewer economists are clever enough to forecast accurately.”
The UK has had a longstanding cross-party consensus on climate action, political support which led to the landmark 2008 Climate Change Act and subsequent science-based emissions target setting.
In addition to calling for a referendum on net zero, the campaign is pushing for the 5% VAT charge on energy bills to be scrapped and for UK domestic production of shale gas and coking coal to be ramped up.
Separately, The Times reported that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could ask that the West be given a “climate change pass” to help it wean the EU off Russian gas supplies.
The paper reports that particularly the US and Canada will be asked to ramp up gas production to help remove the “massive leverage” Russia has over Europe.
Johnson is believed to want to retain the UK’s climate targets, but he may argue that western countries should be able to increase gas production during the transition to nuclear and renewables.
The British government was recently forced to raise its consumer energy bill price cap by around 50% as a result of skyrocketing wholesale costs.
Attempts at fracking in the UK have been made before, but they were shelved amid seismic events triggered near drill sites and overwhelming public opposition to the practice.
The government rejected the campaign’s manifesto, saying that the idea that shale gas is a ‘magic bullet’ for improving UK energy security is false and that increasing low-carbon energy capacity was the optimal solution for cutting the reliance on Russian gas.
What’s more, even if the government lifted the current moratorium on fracking, it could take up to 10 years to extract enough gas to alleviate supply concerns and lower prices.
Critics also pointed out that the UK has no gas supply issues and relies on Russian imports for a fraction of its demand.
“With gas prices rocketing and the geopolitical costs of gas dependence exposed, the case for net zero has never been stronger,” said Sam Hall, CEO of Conservative Environment Network, in response to the campaign’s launch.
Commentators have said the British public was “sold a lie” on Brexit, and is about to be sold another one by Farage’s campaign, namely that climate action is responsible for sky-high consumer energy prices rather than the Russian-led gas market squeeze.
Some highlighted Farage’s long history of climate scepticism and professed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite his campaign, Farage remains on the advisory board of Dutch carbon offset company Dutch Green Business (DGB), according to a Mar. 7 emailed response from the company’s CEO Selwyn Duijvestijn to questions sent by Carbon Pulse.
At the time, Duijvestijn declined to comment the apparent conflict presented by national net zero goals being one of the primary drivers of climate action and a main future source of offset demand, and Farage’s desire to dismantle the UK’s 2050 strategy.
And when asked if Farage continued to hold his seat on the board, Duijvestijn repeated a previous justification for Farage’s appointment, namely that he was brought on board to “due to his unique abilities to communicate relevant ideas to a global audience”.
“DGB is not a political organisation and Nigel Farage’s views are his own, but he shares our love of nature and joined our mission to preserve ecosystems and reforest the earth,” Duijvestijn said.
“We see it as a healthy debate to discuss whether the drive towards net zero should come from public or private markets.”
However, it has since come to light that Duijvestijn’s response may have been somewhat misleading, as the CEO recently told other media that Farage’s relationship with the company had been put on hold since last September and was under review.
In a statement to the FT published in a Mar. 30 article, Duijvestijn said of Farage: “we share a mutual passion for planting trees, but DGB disagrees with his recent comments on net zero”.
The FT piece revealed that Farage is in line to gain up to €18.5 mln through DGB despite his campaign – via 1 mln share options with a €1.50 strike price that he was reportedly granted in Sep. 2021, according to Greenpeace’s Unearthed investigation unit.
Farage was introduced to DGB by his friend John Mappin – a pro-Putin heir to an English jewellery fortune, a scientologist, and an anti-vaxxer – who together with his wife has a 30% stake in DGB, according to Bloomberg.
Mappin and Irina Kudrenok-Mappin were in 2020 appointed as DGB’s chair and director of the company’s supervisory board, but the firm told the FT that “since then several incidents have happened and new information has surfaced, which shines a new light on the motivation for their nomination,” and that therefore the pair’s nomination as non-executive board members has been retracted and DGB has discontinued the appointment.
“DGB has no relationship whatsoever with the Mappin family and does not in any way agree with their political views. We are distancing ourselves from them entirely,” the company told the FT, while Mappin indicated to the paper that he and his wife’s lawyers were now handling the situation, and therefore they declined to comment.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org