Sunday, 7 February 2010

Climate makes money move in mysterious ways

The British Government has been pouring millions of pounds into 'climate-related' projects all over the world, says Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker Published: 6:14PM GMT 06 Feb 2010

In all the coverage lately given to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its embattled chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, one rather important part of the story has largely been missed. This is the way in which, in its obsession with climate change, different branches of the UK Government have in recent years been pouring hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into a bewildering array of "climate-related" projects, often throwing a veil of mystery over how much is being paid, to whom and why.
To begin with a small example. Everyone has now heard of "Glaciergate", the inclusion in the IPCC's 2007 report of a wild claim it was recently forced to disown, that by 2035 all Himalayan glaciers will have melted. In 2001 the Department for International Development (DfID) spent £315,277 commissioning a team of British scientists to investigate this prediction. After co-opting its Indian originator, Dr Syed Hasnain, they reported in 2004 that his claim was just a scare story. Some glaciers were retreating, others were not. There was no way they could disappear in a time-span shorter than many centuries.
Three years later, however, when the IPCC produced its 2007 report, it endorsed Dr Hasnain's claim without any mention of the careful UK-funded study which had shown it to be false. What made this particularly shocking was that in 2008 another British ministry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that it had paid £1,436,000 to fund all the support needed to run the same IPCC working group which, as we now know from a senior IPCC author, had included the bogus claim in its report.
But the story did not stop there. In a report to Parliament the same year, Defra stated that its funding of the IPCC working group had been not £1.4 million but only £543,816. It was also in 2008 that Dr Hasnain was recruited by Dr Pachauri to work in his Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), where his spurious claim was used to win Teri a share in two lucrative studies of the effects of the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers.
The trail into this tangled undergrowth began last December, when Dr Richard North and I were trying to track down 11 payments made by four separate government departments for projects involving Teri Europe, the London-based branch of Dr Pachauri's institute. We were struck by how reluctant the ministries often seemed to be to reveal how much they had paid under these contracts. What's more, why was UK taxpayers' money being used to fund these projects in the first place?
Why in 2005, for instance, did Defra pay Teri for a study designed to help the Indian insurance industry make money out of the risks of global warming? Why was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) sponsoring a study into how Indian industry could make billions out of "carbon credits", paid by Western firms under the bizarre UN scheme known as the Clean Development Mechanism?
Typical of this curiously opaque world was a payment by Defra to fund the work of an unnamed "head of unit" on something called the IPCC Synthesis Report, of which Dr Pachauri was co-editor. This money was paid to Cambridge University (department unnamed), to be forwarded to Teri Europe, then sent on to the anonymous recipient in Delhi, whose email address was Teri India. On one part of the Defra website this payment was given as £30,417. However, the same Defra report to Parliament which had under-declared the payment to the IPCC's working group now gave this payment as only £5,800. (The IPCC itself meanwhile paid Teri a further £400,000 for its work on the Synthesis Report, although it was only 52 pages.)
The same Defra report to Parliament includes a whole string of other climate-change-related projects, covering three pages, many just as mysterious.
Why, for instance, have UK taxpayers shelled out £239,538 to unnamed recipients for a study of "Climate change impacts on Chinese agriculture"? Or £230,895 for a "research programme on climate change impacts in India"? Or £57,500 on the "Brazilian proposal support group"?
The largest single payment on Defra's list, and almost the only recipient identified, was £13,315,168 given to the Hadley Centre itself for its Climate Predictions Programme. This is just a tiny part of the money UK taxpayers have been contributing for years to assist the work of the IPCC: the Hadley Centre alone has been handed £179 million.
A key player in the setting up of the IPCC in 1988 was Dr John Houghton, then head of the Met Office. He persuaded Mrs Thatcher to fund him in launching the Hadley Centre in 1990, which has played a central role in the IPCC ever since. Part of the price we pay for Hadley exercising such disproportionate influence in the IPCC is that Britain has made a similarly disproportionate contribution to the cost of running the panel's operations.
Then why should DfID have paid £30 million to assist "climate change adaptation in Africa"; or £2.5 million for the same in China? Why in 2002 should UK taxpayers have given £200,000 to pay for delegates from developing nations to attend a "Rio Earth Summit" conference in Johannesburg, and another £120,000 for green activists to attend the same shindig – let alone £10,000 for a "workshop on women as 'sacred custodians' of the Earth", to "explore the spiritual, religious and philosophical views concerning women and ecology and the policy implications of these belief systems"?
Only rarely do the government departments funding all these shadowy activities shout pubiicly about how they are spending our money – as when last September DfID's Douglas Alexander was happy to get publicity for flying to Delhi to give Dr Pachauri £10 million to pay for his institute to examine how India's poverty could be reduced by "sustainable development".
Similarly, in 2008, our then energy minister Malcolm Wicks flew to Japan to boast that the UK was "the world's largest donor" to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, pledging another £2.5 million of taxpayers' money, on top of £9 million Britain had already paid into this scheme since its launch in 2003. Again, more than one ministry is responsible for funding this programme, as when DfID pays for a "research agenda on climate change and development", while the FCO sponsors yet another study into "clean development mechanisms".
Contemplating the impenetrable maze of payments made by various ministries to the UN, the EU, banks, research institutes, teams of academics, NGOs, environmental and industrial lobby groups and "charitable foundations" – often through chains of "funding vehicles" which may give only the most nebulous idea of their purpose – we can get little idea what is the total amount of taxpayers' money flooding out from all our different branches of officialdom.
The ministries involved have not seemed exactly keen to help sort out all these mysteries and confusions. What does seem clear is that our Government doesn't really want us to know all the sums involved, who many of the recipients are or why most of these payments are being made in the first place.
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs publishes an interesting note on the Money Laundering Regulations. This lists 26 "suspicious indications" which should attract attention to the possibility that a financial transaction might need investigating. These range from "checking identity is proving difficult" or "reluctance to provide information requested" to "unnecessary routing of funds through third parties" and "transactions having no purpose" or "which seem to involve unnecessary complexity". Any such "suspicious indications", we are told, should prompt the filling in of a "101 form" to report dubious financial dealings to the authorities. But a good many of them would seem to apply only too neatly to the veil of obscurity our Government draws over the astronomical sums it is paying out in support of its religious belief in "climate change".