Thinktank that briefed against XR given £30k by Exxon Mobil in 2017

A thinktank that received money from an oil company later published a report that advised the government to criminalise Extinction Rebellion in its tough new crime laws.

Several Conservative MPs and peers cited the 2019 보고서 by Policy Exchange in parliament and the home secretary, 프리티 파텔, repeated its claims about the climate campaigners being “extremists”.

Many of the report’s recommendations, including “to strengthen the ability of police to place restrictions on planned protest and deal more effectively with mass law-breaking tactics”, later appeared in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

A new investigation by the news website openDemocracy reveals that in 2017, the thinktank received $30,000 (£25,000) from US oil company ExxonMobil.

Policy Exchange and Exxon declined to comment.

There is no suggestion the money provided by the oil company funded the report.

하나, Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton, claimed the policing bill appeared to have been “stained with the grubby, oil-soaked hands of the fossil fuel lobby”.

“This proposed government legislation would crack down on the fundamental rights of protesters to challenge the very climate-wrecking policies espoused by this downright dangerous industry.”

She said that “if [the government’s] long-trumpeted ‘climate leadership’ is to have a shred of credibility, it needs to come clean on its fossil fuel lobby ties immediately”.

OpenDemocracy found that ExxonMobil donated the money to the US fundraising wing of Policy Exchange in 2017. The American Friends of Policy Exchange is a US non-profit set up in 2010 “to support and advance the program of Policy Exchange UK”, and has received almost $5m in anonymous donations since 2012, according to publicly available financial filings. In its annual giving report, Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the US, said it supported the American Friends of Policy Exchange, along with several other organisations, because they “assess public policy alternatives on issues of importance to the petroleum and petrochemical industries”. The donation was given for “energy and environment”, the name of a policy area listed on the thinktank’s website.

에 2019, XR activists “locked on” to the London underground, stopping commuters from getting to work, and brought much of the capital to a halt while asking for action on the climate crisis. 당시, the government was under pressure from sections of the press and the public to crack down on the climate protesters.

Patel has said that the new bill is devised to stop “mobs” such as Extinction Rebellion from “running riot” and includes measures to criminalise methods used by environment campaigners, such as “locking on” to infrastructure.

Paul Stott, the head of security and extremism at Policy Exchange, wrote in a recent blog that the bill was evidence that some of the thinktank’s recommendations to deal with “the mechanics of the deliberate disruption of the public square” were being followed by the government.

Civil rights groups have condemned the government’s plans, with Amnesty International UK saying that they are comparable to “repressive policies” used in Russia, Hong Kong and Belarus.

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion claimed the government was “being directed by thinktanks working for fossil fuel clients, meaning our laws are being written for the benefit of foreign oil and gas corporations”. But they said it showed their protests were having an impact: “Those protesting for change should take confidence in knowing that we’ve got the fossil fuel industry and the UK government running scared – it means what we’re doing is working and that it is crucial now not to allow ourselves to be intimidated, but empowered and ready to keep up the pressure.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Public Order bill, made possible by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, will put a stop to the significant disruption caused by a selfish minority of protesters who impinge upon the rights of the British public to go about their daily lives in peace.

“This bill backs the police to take proactive action and prevent such disruption happening in the first place. The government regularly consults a wide variety of opinions to develop legislation – this is no different.”

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