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Los Angeles-based Climate Emergency Fund can fund Just Stop Oil’s activities, which often result in arrests, without exposing its U.S. donors to British democratic accountability.
Just Stop Oil is just one of a number of organizations supporting the climate change agenda that are resorting to extreme methods to get their points across.
Just Stop Oil, the group that threw soup at a Van Gogh painting, describes themselves as a “movement” and does not appear to have a registered charity or company.
But despite acknowledging a deliberate law-breaking strategy, which would land a registered company or charity in legal hot water, they receive funding from a U.S.-based non-profit, Climate Emergency Fund.
The funding of lawbreaking climate-change protests in the UK by a U.S.-based non-profit, “raises serious questions under U.S. tax” law, according to an expert.
Going Beyond Funding
U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Hardin, is a board member of Energy Policy Advocates, a nonprofit that seeks to bring transparency to the realm of U.S. energy and environmental policy.
Hardin told The Epoch Times by email that “compared to the United States, the UK seems to allow charities to engage in much more political activity.”
“But just because charities can more openly support political causes consistent with their mission, that doesn’t give them license to engage in illegal or criminal activity, such as the now-widespread and seemingly organized campaign of vandalism of cultural treasures,” he said.
“Simply put, there’s a difference between political activism and politically-motivated crime. It is clear, however, that loosely worded laws have emboldened a wave of behaviour that has now become dangerous and wanton, and seems unlikely to end with destruction of property,” he added.
Hardin said that he thinks it’s “fair to ask whether wealthy U.S. donors are going beyond funding charitable activism, including costly litigation campaigns (at taxpayer expense!) and are now funding criminal activity in Europe and even the destruction of cultural treasures.”
“The U.S. tax code takes a rather dim view on tax-deductible funds of American citizens being used to fund political activity abroad, and this entire arrangement raises serious questions under U.S. tax law even leaving aside the UK criminal law implications,” he added.
Just Stop Oil says it gets most of its funding, which it claims is “for recruitment, training, capacity building, and education,” from the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF). In October, The Guardian reported that Just Stop Oil is the biggest recipient of the fund, receiving $1.1 million.
The group is protesting the government awarding of new oil contracts to businesses and is behind a wave of illegal actions, such as blocking access to petrol stations and parts of the UK’s busiest motorway, breaching High Court injunctions, and more.
In November, researchers at the conservative think tank Policy Exchange investigated Just Stop Oil and found that its members had to sign a contract in which they commit to breaking the law.
In the now-deleted form, activists were asked to sign a document that said: “I understand the importance of this action in the context of the unimaginable horror that will occur if the climate and ecological crisis is not dealt with. Only a dramatic life event, such as a loss of a close loved one or illness, will prevent me from taking part in this action.
The form also presented a commitment to action that would lead to “at least” one arrest.
Activists have sprayed paint on numerous buildings and in October Just Stop Oil activists attacked Van Gogh’s universally recognizable painting of a vase of sunflowers by tossing a can of tomato soup at it and gluing themselves to the frame.
“What is worth more, art or life?” said Phoebe Plummer, one of the activists.
On Tuesday, two activists were found guilty of causing criminal damage to another Vincent Van Gogh painting, Peach Trees In Blossom, after gluing themselves and causing damage to its frame at a London art gallery.
In September, five Just Stop Oil activists, who admitted breaching an injunction by blocking entry to the country’s largest oil terminal, were handed suspended sentences.
In November, nine were jailed for breaching an injunction meant to prevent them from blocking busy roads such as the M25, one of the busiest motorways in the country.
The Climate Emergency Fund is in turn partly funded by Aileen Getty, a U.S. billionaire whose grandfather was the petroleum tycoon J. Paul Getty. Getty co-founded the group with wealthy donors including renewable fuels businessman Trevor Neilson, and Rory Kennedy, daughter of Sen. Robert Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy.
The L.A.-based Climate Emergency Fund insists that it “only funds lawful activities, and we are guided by legal counsel with expertise in activism and social movements.”
It claims that it is “roughly three times more cost-effective to send in activists than lobbyists.”
On its mission page, it says it works with an “international network of activists” called the A22 Network, which Just Stop Oil is a part of, and which uses a specific method of “building mass civil resistance.” They say they have created a “proven method for scaling up disruptive protest” and that the Climate Emergency Fund is their primary funder.
In 2022, the Climate Emergency Fund made $4.5 million in grants to 43 groups.
Asking potential donors to “support this uprising,” a link says that, “history tells us that the fastest way to create transformative change through sustained civil resistance.” It also asks to “help us support Just Stop Oil at 10 other groups in the A22 Network to recruit thousands of everyday people to join our fight for humanity.”
Time Magazine recently credited Climate Emergency Fund executive director and psychologist Margaret Klein Salamon as being behind protesters throwing soup at art. In a 2019 essay, Salamon said that “we will do whatever we can in order to spread climate truth, and to build power behind the need for WWII-scale climate mobilisation.”
In a post on Twitter in October, she wrote: “Think you can do better than throwing soup onto a painting? Please do. Seriously, I am begging you. We need the movement to be huge. PLEASE help build a movement and design actions according to your vision. I hope they will be tremendously successful.”
In an op-ed in the Guardian titled “I fund climate activism—and I applaud the Van Gogh protest,” Getty said that she “proudly” provides “funding to the Climate Emergency Fund, which in turn makes grants to climate activists engaged in nonviolent legal civil disobedience, including Just Stop Oil, the group the activists represented.”
“I do not fund these groups directly, nor do I have direct control over which specific actions climate activists choose to take,” she added.
The Epoch Times has not been able to establish the level of funding provided from the Climate Emergency Fund to Just Stop Oil. Neither organization responded to a request for comment.
Funding Various Disruptive Elements
Just Stop Oil now has an account with an Australian-founded internationally regulated global crowdfunding platform called Chuffed. The site is a vehicle for progressive causes. One account is raising funds so that Nigerian progressives can pursue a “socialist revolution.”
Chuffed did not respond to a request for comment.
Environmentalism skeptic Ben Pile, co-founder of the Climate Resistance blog, told The Epoch Times that “these philanthropic funds are funding various disruptive elements of all kinds and don’t have to account for it.”
But Pile said that he believed eventually they “will be held to account.”
“There is going to be a reckoning. We’ve got a date with reality when the establishment finally does realise that you can’t carry our first-world economy on wind farms. That penny has to drop at some point. It’s not going to work and until the political establishment admits it, we are on course to becoming whatever tier economy that is. We might be Argentina if we are lucky, but we don’t have cows,” said Pile.
“And they are going to do their damage and the question will be asked. It’s not going to be like a COVID review. It’s going to be much more painful. It’s a fundamental transformation of the economy and society. It’s a naked attempt to change our values such that we accept that transformation,” he said.
PA Media contributed to this report.