Dark Money Investigations: News

Revealed: Brexit donor behind net-zero backlash has $130m in fossil fuels

Jeremy Hosking, who is bankrolling campaigns to scrap UK emissions targets, has given millions to parties led by Nigel Farage and Laurence Fox

Seth Thévoz close-up
Seth Thévoz
22 March 2022, 10.31am

Jeremy Hosking has donated to the Tories, as well as parties led by Nigel Farage and Laurence Fox

openDemocracy via Imageplotter/World History Archive/Stills Press/Alamy. All rights reserved

A multimillionaire Brexit donor funding anti-‘net zero’ campaigns is the director of a company with tens of millions of pounds invested in oil and gas, openDemocracy has found.

The revelation comes as chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to bow to pressure from the motor industry and cut fuel duty in his spring Budget statement on Wednesday.

Investment manager Jeremy Hosking has given millions to political parties including the Conservatives and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party/Reform UK, as well as Vote Leave. Recently, he has been bankrolling Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party, which has campaigned against ‘net zero’, and has been linked to a climate denial group.

But an openDemocracy investigation has shown how Hosking’s company, Hosking Partners, has at least $134m invested in the fossil fuel sector according to the most recent data.

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It raises further questions about the Tories’ links to the fossil fuel industry.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “It comes as no surprise whatsoever that Nigel Farage and his anti-net zero cabal [have been] bankrolled by fossil fuel investors, pursuing their own ideology and interests while the planet burns. But it’s shameful that the Conservative Party, which claims to be ‘leading the way’ on climate change, has taken hefty donations from the very same source.

“This is hypocrisy of the highest order and demands an urgent investigation into the extent of Tory donors’ dirty links with the fossil fuel industry.”

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Less than five months ago, COP26 saw the UK government agree to a net-zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This involves both reducing the level of emissions generated by the UK and ‘balancing’ remaining emissions with techniques to remove them from the atmosphere.

Ever since there have been attempts to back-pedal, and recent weeks have seen a flurry of campaigns from right-wing pressure groups to undermine the pledge.

Even while COP26 was taking place, a Hosking-funded Reclaim Party broadcast was claiming: “Net zero will cost you everything.”

Hosking has previously donated to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, now known as Reform UK. Earlier this month, Farage and Reform leader Richard Tice launched a campaign for a referendum on net zero, called ‘Vote Power, Not Poverty’.

Experts have branded Farage’s campaign “inaccurate”.

This is hypocrisy of the highest order and demands an urgent investigation

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP

Opposition to net zero has emerged as a major issue on the Conservative Right. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, described by DeSmog as “the UK’s most prominent climate science denial group”, has rebranded itself Net Zero Watch, while the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of backbench Tory MPs – led by long standing Eurosceptics Craig Mackinlay and Steve Baker – has called on Boris Johnson to water down environmental proposals.

Politico reported last week that the UK government is now looking to U-turn on its own net-zero targets: its energy strategy has been delayed, and it will reportedly have loopholes on “national security” and “geopolitical consideration” that will pave the way to renewed drilling for North Sea oil and gas.

Hosking’s political history

Hosking has been at the centre of UK conservative politics for over a decade, donating more than £6m to campaigns.

He is reputed to have a fortune of £385m and was ranked in 2020 by The Sunday Times Rich List as the 346th richest person in Britain, as well as being a major shareholder in Crystal Palace Football Club. He donated £1.7m to Vote Leave, making him the third-biggest Brexit donor. He also deserted the Conservatives to fund a series of pro-Brexit causes – first Farage’s Brexit Party, then the Brexit Express campaign for a hard Brexit. Hosking also bankrolls The Critic magazine, which regularly publishes stories railing against net-zero targets.

More recently, he has funded the Reclaim Party. As openDemocracy showed last October, Reclaim shares a spokesperson – Lois Perry – with the climate sceptic group Car26.

The Reclaim Party has declared 51 donations totalling £2.2m since it was created. Every single one of them has been from Hosking – the party has not declared any other donors. Hosking’s Reclaim funding stretches back to March 2019, even though the party did not officially launch until October 2020. Reclaim says it “is not accepting any third-party donations at this time”. It is understood that Reclaim prefers to limit itself to just one donor, to have certainty over who is funding it.

The investments

The most recent records available show that Hosking Partners had more than $134m in investments across the energy sector in the final quarter of 2021. The firm manages an $8bn investment portfolio overall.

Nearly two-thirds of that amount is in the oil industry. The largest stake is worth $34.5m in Texas-based oil and gas multinational ConocoPhillips, with a further $15.8m in US-based Marathon Petroleum. $20.6m is in the Brazilian state-owned oil multinational Petroleo Brasiliero, plus $19.6m in crude oil tanker firm DHT Holdings, and $8.5m in oil tanker firm International Seaways.

Hosking Partners’ remaining energy investments are also focused on fossil fuels. $13.9m is in coal company Peabody Energy, and a further $4.5m in Warrior Met Coal. The business also has $5.7m invested in Golar LNG (Liquid Natural Gas), $2.8m in drilling firm NOW Inc, and $8.2m in oil and gas drilling firm the Apache Corporation.

It's no surprise that Farage and his anti-net zero cabal [have been] bankrolled by fossil fuel investors

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP

openDemocracy’s analysis looked at the most recently available data on Hosking Partners’ investment portfolio, up to 31 December 2021. The sums above do not take into account changes in the value of investments since then – including the explosion in energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Philip Evans, climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “This type of research is so important in highlighting why some politicians just won’t accept scientific evidence – it is difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends upon them not understanding it.”

Hosking has run Hosking Partners since 2013, as well as still receiving income from Marathon Asset Management, which he founded in 1986 and has no connection to Marathon Petroleum.

openDemocracy understands that Hosking Partners is keen to distinguish between the company that Hosking runs, and Hosking as an individual.

A representative for Hosking Partners and Jeremy Hosking declined to comment. The Reclaim Party did not respond to a request for comment.

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