How Much Russian Gold has Stuffed the Coffers of the Green Activists?

On Saturday, the Daily Sceptic reported Matt Ridley’s contention that the well-organised campaign against fracking shale gas was part-funded by a Russia concerned about reducing Europe’s dependence on its gas exports. Daniel Hannan wrote in Sunday’s Telegraph that Russia poured £60 million into Western anti-fracking campaigns, “using gullible activists” to spread scare stories about contamination and earthquakes. “Utter tripe,” tweeted the investigative journalist David Rose, stating that there was simply no evidence for the claim, but noting that the activists had all the money they needed from “Sir Christopher Hohm and his buddies”.

Rose is correct in drawing attention to the huge sums of money that pour into the thousands of green activist organisations that have sprung up over the last 20 years. Sir Christopher Hohm is a billionaire hedge fund manager and has given Extinction Rebellion nearly £200,000. But unsurprisingly, none of the gifts, bequests and grants to the countless green operations are labelled, “A present from a grateful Russia.” Of course, any foreign power seeking influence could easily channel money undetected.

Russia’s hand is clearly detectable in the anti-fracking campaigns of the last decade, and by implication in the wider green movement. Unlike most conspiracy theories about Russia meddling in Western politics, Matt Ridley suggests, “this one is out there in plain sight”. He continued in an article written in 2019: “The head of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the Russians, as part of a sophisticated disinformation operation, ‘engaged actively with so-called non-government organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas’.”

Ridley also reported that the Centre for European Studies found that the Russian Government had invested $95 million in NGOs campaigning against shale gas. In addition, the TV station Russia Today (RT) ran endless anti-fracking stories, including one that “frackers are the moral equivalent of paedophiles”.

In the United States, a House of Representatives 2018 Science Committee investigated Russia’s attempts to influence domestic energy policy by exploiting social media. It reported that both Republicans and Democrats agreed that the Kremlin was “manipulating environmental groups in an attempt to carry out their agenda”. The Kremlin will use “any and all tools” to preserve Russia’s dominant energy status. The committee found that documents supplied by social media groups “confirmed” that Russian agents were exploiting social media platforms in an effort to “disrupt domestic energy markets, suppress research and development of fossil fuels, and stymie efforts to expand the use of natural gas”.

The committee also quoted a private speech made in 2014 by the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, disclosed first in WikiLeaks. She talked about the struggle of dealing with Russian-backed environmental groups, noting:

We [the State Department and the U.S.] were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phoney environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, ‘Oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem, for you’, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.

Four recent years of Republican political control put the tin hat on any moves to disrupt fracking in the U.S., with the result that its plentiful natural gas is a quarter of the U.K. price. At the same time, Theresa May pushed the increasingly implausible Net Zero policy into law, while Boris Johnson had a Damascene conversion at the altar of Sir Patrick Vallance and turned into the Government’s Green Activist-in-Chief.

Far from seeking secure and reliable energy security, the U.K. Oil and Gas regulator recently ordered two fracking wells in Lancashire to be sealed with concrete. A two-year moratorium on fracking remains in place in the U.K. The move followed years of campaigning by green activist groups, citing non-existent pollution and earth shakes similar to the effect of someone sitting on a chair. The Government’s own Climate Change Committee says there must be a “presumption against exploration” of oil and gas. Tim Eggar, the Chairman of the Oil and Gas Authority, claims the debate about climate change is over, and warns that the oil and gas industry’s “social licence to operate is under serious threat”.

Few green groups in the last three years have been more extreme and high profile than Extinction Rebellion (XR), an organisation that has collected millions of pounds in donations to fund its disruptive and provocative public protests. As David Rose notes, it has succeeded in raising large sums from wealthy donors. But before its first lengthy blockade of London’s bridges and roads in April 2019, its co-founder Roger Hallam was known mostly to viewers of RT. In a lengthy ‘why-are-you-so-very-wonderful’ interview, Hallam suggested that street blockages were the “pathway to the revolution”. His view was that the optimum point for such protest was two or three steps above “decent civil disobedience”. In his view, disruption and property damage is “good stuff”. Hallam has also said that “sacrifice is losing liberty and ultimately dying for the cause and that brings more people out into the street”.

XR sprang into life in the U.K. in late 2018, but it is interesting to note that similar operations suddenly appeared in many other countries. An early investigative article on the group in the Finnish limastotiede blog casts an interesting light on these early formations. “Similar campaigns seem to have appeared almost simultaneously in other countries too. Is it only imitation, or is there some international coordination in play?” it asked.

It is possible that XR had a part to play in the wave of school strikes that brought Greta Thunberg to international prominence. In an early Facebook post, Thunberg admitted that she had been contacted around the middle of 2018 by Bo Thoren “whose group wanted to do something about the climate crisis”. It was Thoren, later a leading member of XR Sweden, who suggested a school strike to the impressionable Thunberg. When the school strikes briefly hit the U.K., Roger Hallam said they were “cool”, while the Government Energy Secretary at the time, Claire Perry, said that if she was younger she would have joined them herself.

XR is engaged in a constant and ongoing campaign to irritate and inconvenience law-abiding members of the public, but it is usually careful to claim that it is non-violent. Occasionally, the “peace and love” shtick slips a bit. Last November, the Canadian activist David Suzuki, who runs a green foundation that receives millions of dollars a year from wealthy donors, warned about the risk of XR’s activism morphing into eco-terrorism if Western governments didn’t do more to advance the green agenda. In a subsequent media interview, he said: “We are in deep, deep doo-doo. This is what we’re coming to. The next stage after this, there are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on.”

Suzuki later explained that his remarks were “spoken out of extreme frustration”, but Zain Haq, XR Canada’s National Action and Strategy Coordinator added: “Not only will pipelines be blown up, but we can be certain that world leaders will be put on trial for treason or worse – be killed.”

Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic‘s Environment Editor.

Stop Press: In an earlier version of this piece, Sir Christopher Hohm was described as “Sir Christopher Holm”. This has now been corrected. Thanks to Ben Pile for pointing out that mistake. Ben also thinks the evidence that the Russians helped to fund anti-fracking movements and protests is very flimsy. For more on this, see here.

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September 2022
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