Today the TaxPayers' Alliance has released a new press release with the Competitive Enterprise Institute attacking the waste of taxpayers' money by the Carbon Trust trying to expand around the world. The Daily Mail have reported the story and written in their leader that, as Gordon Brown is under pressure to identify cuts: "He should start with the Carbon Trust." They are absolutely right.
Unfortunately, Carbon Trust Chief Executive Tom Delay doesn't appear to be getting the message. Here is his response to the Daily Mail story:
"They are barking up the wrong tree. We do not lobby governments wherever they are in the world, we help business reduce carbon emissions now and in the future. Our work overseas is funded by overseas companies and governments and our support for this represents 1 per cent of our UK budget."
Let's take that bit by bit:
"We do not lobby governments wherever they are in the world"
The job advert for the Head of Carbon Trust USA called for someone who could "establish and maintain key relationships with internal and external stakeholders, including elected members, policy makers and advisers"; build "trusted relationships with the Administration and key elected members in Washington/ States"; and "carry out visits arranged by the British Embassy/Consulates in the US and the British High Commission in Canada to meet and present the Carbon Trust model to high-level government and business representatives. There may also be a small number of similar visits to South American countries." If that doesn't qualify as lobbying in the mind of Tom Delay then it's difficult to know what would.
However, it doesn't end there. The Carbon Trust also expends considerable effort lobbying in the United Kingdom. The latest Association of Professional Political Consultants register (PDF) shows that they have contracts with Grayling Political Strategy and Weber Shandwick, two of the biggest lobbying firms in the country. The Carbon Trust's accounts boast that:
"Back in 2005 we published a major review of the UK’s policy framework focused on energy efficiency in the business and public sector. This work, in particular, highlighted a gap in policy to incentivise change in the large, less energy-intensive organisations that contribute up to 10% of UK-wide emissions. We suggested that a new, mandatory trading scheme could fill this gap, and in 2007/08 this work came to fruition. The UK Government decided that a mandatory scheme was the correct approach. It consulted on the detailed design of the proposed new scheme, and currently plans to put it into place in 2010."
That is an organisation promoting its political importance, similar to the way countless other political groups will promote themselves. Only, the other groups aren't funded with the money of ordinary taxpayers who will end up paying for this new trading scheme the same way they pay the price for the existing European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.
"Our work overseas is funded by overseas companies and governments and our support for this represents 1 per cent of our UK budget."
This is deliberately misleading. The story was about their using our money lobbying to expand abroad. The market they're trying to capture is, indeed, foreign taxpayers' money. They are lobbying for the funding to establish clones of themselves in a range of countries. However, the money they are using to do that lobbying is ours. We didn't know how much they were spending but 1 per cent of their UK budget is about £1 million, that money could - and should - be returned to UK taxpayers.
Of course, they are right that this is only a small part of their overall budget. But, and here's the real kick in the teeth, we just don't know how they spend most of the hundred million pounds a year that they are given. As an "independent" company they don't have to respond to Freedom of Information requests and there is very little information in their accounts. What information the accounts do provide is often a bit dodgy. They only list two executive directors in their remuneration report (the account of how their directors are paid that all companies and public bodies - except councils - have to produce), presumably because they've hived the others off to subsidiaries, making their operations even more opaque.
The Carbon Trust should be abolished. Even if that can't be achieved, they should at least be made subject to FOI so people can know how their money is being spent. If they've got nothing to hide, that shouldn't scare them in the least.