Viscount Matt Ridley, a conservative member of the House of Lords, has been accused of lobbying in favour of coal industries. Originally from Northumberland, his interests in coal mining and industry are allegedly supporting the coal workers and their families in the area. In his statements, he has argued that he is only protecting jobs and promoting the creation of more. However, Ridley receives payments from opencast coal mines operating in Northumberland.
In a recent email, released after a freedom of information request, Ridley wrote to energy minister Lord Bourne in April to promote a Texas-based company with the technology to transform the CO2 emissions from power stations into “cheap chemical feedstock with a new process.” He continues the email suggesting that this technology would be of interest for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the UK government.
One of the most striking points is that he is not only using his power and influence to encourage members of the cabinet to keep using coal, but he is also ready to speak out against renewable energy. In his email to Bourne he said: “I look forward to manning the barricades against windfarms once again on Tuesday”, probably referring the parliamentary debate in which he spoke against wind power. In previous occasions, he has used his Times column to minimise the importance of climate change and its effects. In addition, he is part of the academic advisory council of Lord Nigel Lawson’s climate sceptic thinktank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
According to Guy Shrubsole, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Ridley has always maintained his own coal interests are immaterial to his climate sceptic views and political activities, however, the fact remains that this email shows the exact opposite. He has been actually lobbying for his financial interests by trying to prolong coal industry activities in the UK whilst at the same time condemning the development of clean energy.
The UK government has promised to phase out coal power by 2025, and leave it in the ground, especially after the opencast coal mining scandal which weakens its position in environmental negotiations. Conversely, the Banks Group recently won planning permission for a new opencast mine at Duridge Bay, in Northumberland, where they are already operating elsewhere on Ridley’s land.
This just shows how lobbyists like Ridley are delaying the quick and cheap delivery of renewable energy in the UK and Europe. Personal financial interests prevail over the general well-being and a sustainable future for the UK and the generations to come. Regular activism does not have the access or the authority people like Ridley possess, and therefore they are going into battle without the proper armour. As long as the government and its members continue to turn a blind eye to these conflicts of interests, it is not clear when the UK will be able to see appropriate policies that will allow a transition towards a zero carbon economy.