Climate Crisis: Tory MP Has Stakes in 18 Extractive Fossil Fuel Companies
Phoebe Cooke and Adam Barnett: A Tory MP who suggested it is “morally wrong” to discourage poor countries from pursuing high-carbon growth on climate change grounds has a financial interest in numerous fossil fuel and mining companies.
Among the 18 extractive companies listed under the MP’s entry in the parliamentary register of interests are Shell and the world’s largest oilfield services company, Schlumberger.
Marcus Fysh, a member of the “Net Zero Scrutiny Group” of MPs recently launched to push back against the government’s climate policies, told talkRADIO earlier this month the developing world should not be forced to follow greener economic pathways, speaking of the abject poverty he had witnessed in India.
“It is frankly morally questionable, morally wrong some might say, to try to withhold the prospect of development from such people that could improve their lives,” he said.
Parliamentary records show the Yeovil MP holds a stake in multiple high-emissions companies, responsible for climate impacts that disproportionately affect developing countries.
Campaigners described the MP’s interests as “concerning” and said the government should prevent lawmakers from “having a personal stake in the success of companies and financial institutions causing the catastrophe we’re already seeing in so many parts of the world”.
According to the latest register of MPs’ financial interests, Fysh holds stakes in 16 companies involved in the extraction, production or administration of mining products.
Fysh also has a stake in two banks that have financed billions in fossil fuels, as well as oil giant Shell and Schlumberger, a contractor on BP’s infamous Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
The interests are listed under the “miscellaneous” category on the parliamentary register, which covers financial interests amounting to less than 15 percent of a company’s shares, or £70,000.
Financial interests – which can include futures, options and other holdings – should be registered if they might “reasonably” be thought by others to influence the MP’s “actions or words”.
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The majority of the mining companies listed are involved in the extraction of rare metals such as gold, silver and platinum, including Franco-Nevada Corporation, which also has significant oil and gas investments.
Fysh additionally holds stakes in Bank of America and Citi, among the top four “fossil banks” globally, according to analysis by climate campaign group BankTrack. Between 2016-2020, Citi lent £178 billion to the fossil fuel industry, while Bank of America financed £148.7 billion.
Coal, oil and gas have increasingly come under pressure for their contribution to climate change, but the environmental and social impact of mining has received much less attention.
Mining is responsible for between four and seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from direct “scope 1 and 2” emissions alone, a 2020 report by consultancy McKinsey found. This figure rises to 28 percent when factoring in scope 3 emissions from processing, combustion and use.
Environmental non-profit Earthworks argues metals mining is one of the world’s dirtiest industries, linked to severe human rights abuses, violent conflict and unsafe working conditions in some parts of the world.
Fysh has made a number of comments recently casting doubt on the government’s net zero policies.
During the talkRADIO interview, Fysh identified himself as part of the “Net Zero Scrutiny Group” (NZSG), a loose alliance of backbench MPs that formed this year to question government policy on reaching its 2050 net zero target.
Fysh has also shared Twitter posts from Net Zero Watch, the new name for the campaigning wing of the UK’s most prominent climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
One of these promoted an article by fellow MP and NZSG member Steve Baker arguing that the UK’s plans to decarbonise the economy were a “catastrophe waiting to happen” and urging ministers to “liberate the private sector to go for gas”. Baker joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation as a trustee in May.
In October, Fysh called for the UK to increase fossil fuel energy production, saying it should follow the example of the US and China.
Fysh’s financial affairs have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks for other reasons.
In September, the backbencher failed to inform fellow MPs about his stake in a multinational insurance giant, AIA group, when proposing an amendment in parliament that would have exempted people from paying a proposed health and social care levy if they took out insurance.
Last year Fysh was ordered to apologise for his “patronising” conduct towards the parliamentary standards commissioner, after breaching the MPs’ code of conduct for failing to register several unpaid directorships.
‘Get Their House in Order’
Reacting to the news, Seema Joshi, director of campaigns at NGO Global Witness, said gold mining was “devastating for our planet, wrecking natural habitats and destroying communities” and its investigations had shown some gold mines “linked to the funding of brutal conflicts and appalling human rights abuses”.
“We have grave concerns about an elected politician making money from such a murky and poorly regulated industry,” she said.
“This government has made bold statements about their intention to address the climate emergency. They should be getting their own house in order too — stopping their own MPs having a personal stake in the success of companies and financial institutions causing the catastrophe we’re already seeing in so many parts of the world.”
“We cannot dig our way out of the crisis,” Andy Whitmore, co-chair of trustees for the London Mining Network, told DeSmog.
“It is of concern that a UK MP appears to hold a financial interest in a broad range of mining companies, given that mining has such a poor reputation in terms of environmental damage and human rights abuses, particularly in the Global South.
“It is clear that, in order to avoid a climate crisis, we need to divest from fossil fuels. However, we also need to be concerned about the impacts involved with all our extraction, and our ever-expanding global material footprint,” he said.
When approached by DeSmog, Fysh did not respond to requests to clarify the value of his shares, or offer further comment.