England’s new climate minister Graham Stuart owns a publishing company that specialised in promoting gas guzzlers, openDemocracy can reveal.
Stuart, who has been MP for Beverley and Holderness in Yorkshire since 2005, chairs and owns 80% of CSL Publishing Ltd, which produced magazines specialising in “marine and automotive brands,” including 4x4 Mart, which claimed to be the “UK’s top magazine for buying and selling 4x4s”.
“Whether you’re buying a new or used 4x4, SUV or crossover, 4x4mart.co.uk brings details of all the latest offers, the best deals and the newest models,” the company’s website, accessed through an internet archive, said.
The Covid-19 public inquiry is a historic chance to find out what really happened.
4x4 Mart, which was originally a physical magazine, continued to publish online at least until October 2012, long after the business owner had been elected to parliament.
The brand published promotional articles on 4x4s and SUVs, with the front page of one issue announcing that a Mercedes-Benz 4x4 was “re-emphasising its position as a leading force among off-road vehicles”, while reporters reviewed other 4x4s.
Another issue included a “Battle of the V8: Range Rover vs Jeep Grand Cherokee,” while another told readers how to buy a 4x4 for a “hardcore challenge,” a key advertising technique that was used to market vehicles usually in fact used for suburban driving.
The fashion for 4x4s and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) has done real damage to the climate, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency.
Since 2010, the total number of such vehicles being sold annually has gone from 11 million to 36 million. According to the same International Energy Agency report, this trend has wiped out any gains made by the introduction of battery-powered engines.
Between 2010 and 2020, global CO2 emissions from conventional cars fell by nearly 350 megatonnes, due to factors such as fuel efficiency improvements as well as the switch to electric. Emissions from SUVs rose by more than 500 megatonnes, according to research by New Scientist magazine.
SUVs are also controversial because of their road safety record: a person is much more likely to die if they’re hit by one in an accident. While the cars tend to be marketed around their success in navigating tough terrain in ‘the great outdoors,’ three quarters of those sold in the UK in 2019 were bought by people living in towns and cities, and large SUVs were more popular in urban areas than rural areas that year.
Former Green Party leader Siân Berry – who was a co-founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s and is now a London Assembly member – criticised Stuart’s appointment.
“As someone who spent my early political life trying to put a lid on the fashion for the pointless giant 4x4s that were polluting my city, I have grave concerns if our new climate minister cut his teeth promoting petrolhead magazines,” she told openDemocracy.
Stuart did not respond to our request for comment. Writing on his blog, he has described climate change as “one of the greatest challenges we will face in our lifetime”.
From coronation budgets to secretive government units, journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act to expose corruption and incompetence in high places. Tony Blair regrets ever giving us this right. Today's UK government is giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly. But would better transparency give us better government? And how can we get it?
Join our experts for a free live discussion at 5pm UK time on 15 June.
Claire Miller Data journalism and FOI expert Martin Rosenbaum Author of ‘Freedom of Information: A Practical Guidebook’; former BBC political journalist Jenna Corderoy Investigative reporter at openDemocracy and visiting lecturer at City University, London Chair: Ramzy Alwakeel Head of news at openDemocracy
CommentsWe encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.