Labour’s Barry Gardiner on cuts to climate change staff at the Foreign Office

Labour’s Barry Gardiner on cuts to climate change staff at the Foreign Office


Let me start with the positive. The work that
the Foreign Office has done, over the past decade and more, has been absolutely critical
in bringing us to where we are now, globally on climate change, having the Paris Agreement.
The commitment that the Foreign Office has made in the past has been superlative. I confess,
I was extremely worried in 2010 when William Hague came and he had a review of what was
going on, in terms of our diplomacy on climate change, but he took a good look at it and
he came to the right conclusion; that, actually, the soft power that we exercise in this area
gave the UK huge traction and huge respect. He maintained that cadre of civil servants
within the Foreign Office who were working on climate change around the world. I congratulate
him for that. The new administration at the Foreign Office, I think, is deeply worrying.
I think the permanent secretary is somebody who has not got the same appreciation of the
benefits to the UK from that influence and soft power that our climate diplomacy has
given us. I think the way in which David King was effectively dismissed was a disgrace.
I think the rearguard action that was fought, in order to secure a replacement as the climate
envoy, was welcome, but we need to see the outcome of that. The really lame reasoning that has been used,
that said, “Well, the Paris Agreement has now happened, we don’t need to have such investment
in climate diplomacy,” is either willfully ignorant… [pauses]… It’s either ignorant
or willfully damaging, both to the progress that we need to make and also the UK’s interests.
We are now at a phase, where we have in Paris established a process that could work, but
it will only work if, in fact, the efforts in climate diplomacy around the world are
maintained and reinforced. Paris doesn’t do the job. Paris gives us the tools to do the
job. If you then take the labour force away from those tools, you’re not going to get
the job done. The Foreign Office needs to wake up and it needs to put that back in place.

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