Tory peer attended Cop26 summit for Russia, UN list shows

A Conservative peer attended Cop26 in Glasgow as part of Russia’s group of participants at the UN climate summit, the Guardian can reveal.

Jasper Jolly

Greg Barker, a former energy minister when David Cameron was prime minister, attended the talks as part of the party of the Russian Federation, according to a list published by the UN.

Lord Barker resigned on Monday as chair of the Russian mining company En+ Group. The company is part-owned by the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who was sanctioned by the US in 2018. En+ confirmed that Barker attended with a pass from Russia’s allocation.

His resignation followed intense scrutiny of his relationship with the company, including by senior Tory party colleagues, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Share instruments in En+, which is incorporated in Russia, were suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday.

The presence of Barker on the list emerged in analysis of lobbying at the summit by three non-government organisations – Global Witness, Corporate Accountability and Corporate Europe Observatory.

Barker was ennobled in 2015 by Cameron, after serving for four years as minister of state for climate change. Barker had served as Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle. However, he is not thought to have attended the House of Lords since 2019.

A source familiar with the matter said Barker did not participate in, or attend, any official Russian government functions, meetings or receive any briefings at the climate summit.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour party chair, said: “The Conservatives have serious questions to answer about why it seems one of their peers was allowed to attend Cop26 as part of Russia’s party.”

Dodds added that “urgent action” was required from the Conservatives to remove people from the political party who have links to Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Barker had been heavily criticised by Conservative party colleagues and other political parties for his prior involvement with En+. The former Tory minister David Davis said: “As a matter of law, people like him should be disqualified from holding office in those companies.”

Murray Worthy, a gas campaign leader at Global Witness, said: “Lord Barker has serious questions to answer as to why he was registered to the world’s most important climate talks as part of the official Russian delegation.

“As do the Conservative party, whose government was entrusted to host Cop26 and made a huge fanfare about its importance in reaching the necessary climate action to stop the heating of our planet.”

While Barker will step down as chair of the listed company, En+ said on Monday that it was considering carving out a large part of the aluminium business, which included the international business of Rusal, a part-owned subsidiary.

The new company would be owned by management and non-Russian investors, and potentially led by Barker, according to a report by Bloomberg News that was referenced by EN+ in its stock market statement.

En+, which mainly produces aluminium but also makes significant profits from coal and other commodities, escaped direct sanctions by the US in 2019 through a deal with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) in which Deripaska’s stake was reduced to below 45%, and his voting rights were reduced to 35%.

Barker received £6m in pay and bonuses in part as a reward for orchestrating the deal.

Deripaska has sought to have the sanctions removed, and has consistently argued that he should not have been designated. A spokesperson for Deripaska said the US sanctions relied on “baseless accusations” and “false claims”.

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Deripaska has in recent days expressed opposition to war in Ukraine. According to Reuters, Deripaska said: “We need peace as soon as possible. The whole world will be different after these events and Russia will be different.”

A source close to Barker said: “The heartbreaking situation in Ukraine and the terrible consequences that flow from it are bad enough without now trying to play politics with the climate agenda.

“Lord Barker has a long history of climate activism, and while he stands by his decision to leave En+, he remains very proud of the progress he was able to achieve in helping one of the world’s largest producers of low-carbon aluminium and hydropower lead the way into the low-carbon economy. Pretending that all Russians are bad is, frankly, appalling.”