A ROW has broken out after an “energy expert” associated with an organisation that challenges the mainstream response to climate change was given permission to hold a talk in the States Building in a visit being publicised by a taxpayer-funded arm’s-length organisation.
Dr John Constable has been invited to the Island by the recently formed Jersey Climate Forum, which brands itself as a “climate watchdog”, to give a talk entitled “Lessons from Economic History – Can Wind and Solar Sustain a Modern Economy”.
The talk will be delivered to the public in the Town Hall between 6.30pm and 8pm on Thursday – which is listed on Jersey Business’s website – and to politicians in the States Building the following morning.
The move sparked a backlash from dozens of Islanders online, who said that the public talk should not be being publicised by Jersey Business.
And Deputy Catherine Curtis, from Reform Jersey, said that Dr Constable should not have been given access to the States Building, adding: “To me it’s akin to States Members receiving a briefing from anti-vaxxers or Covid deniers.”
But former States Member and JEP columnist Ted Vibert, who organised the event in the States Assembly building, said that he believed it was “incredible” that anyone could have a problem with the talk taking place.
Islander Jennifer Bridge wrote on social media that she was “very disappointed” to see Jersey Business “promoting” the event.
She continued: “It all looks so innocuous doesn’t it? But then you find out that the proposed speaker – John Constable – is the Energy Editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum, campaign arm of the climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation…”
Jersey Business said that it was not “promoting” the event, and it had merely listed it on its website among many others.
Deputy Curtis said she had raised the fact that the second talk was being held in the States Building with the States Greffier and the Privileges and Procedures Committee.
Speaking to the JEP yesterday, she said that there was an item on the next Privileges and Procedures agenda about the use of the rooms, saying: “The PPC may wish to provide policy guidelines on their use going forward.”
She continued: “My concern is that the presentation may be based around fringe beliefs, and while it’s good for all views to be presented and discussed, holding a presentation in the States Building gives it a certain legitimacy. While the Jersey Climate Forum has confirmed that Dr Constable is speaking in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, he is the energy director of that organisation, so I expect his views would align with theirs.
“It doesn’t seem responsible for the group to have special access to States Members.”
The Greffier confirmed that the event with States Members was still due to go ahead, reiterating that Dr Constable was speaking “in his personal capacity as an acknowledged expert on energy”, adding that Members could choose whether to attend or not.
A press release from the Jersey Climate Forum described Dr Constable as “the executive director of Net Zero Watch, a group founded by the late Nigel Lawson, one of Britain’s most successful Chancellors and initially formed as the Global Warming Policy Forum. Net Zero Watch is a charity group set up to highlight the serious economic and social implications of expensive and poorly considered climate and energy policies, both domestically and internationally”.
The Global Warming Policy Forum describes itself as “non-partisan think tank and a registered educational charity that focuses on climate and energy policy”.
It says on its website: “We are deeply concerned about the impact of climate change policies: that they may be doing more harm than good, both to the world’s poorest people and the environment.”
Mr Vibert stressed the importance of an “expert with a totally different viewpoint” being allowed to speak, when wind-farm proposals put forward by former Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf had already progressed to consultation phase.
Environment Minister Steve Luce has said that he is “more ambivalent” about those proposals but would complete the consultation before the proposals come before Members in March.
Mr Vibert continued: “We simply made a request to the States Greffier that we would like him to meet the States Assembly and we named several places, before I suggested that we could have it inside the building.”
He added that Deputy Curtis’s perspective was “extraordinary” and did not show that the States Assembly “approved” of Dr Constable’s views: “The States Building belongs to the people of Jersey, and holding presentations to States Members within the States Building is something that ought to be happening all the time.”
– Dr Constable is due to speak at the Town Hall from 6.30pm to 8pm on Thursday.