Foreign Office under fire for scrapping top climate diplomat role

    16 Apr 2023

    The UK government has been criticised for scrapping its most senior climate diplomat post, previously held by Nick Bridge.

    Prof Sir David King, the former special representative for climate change from 2013-2017, called the decision “extremely disappointing” and a “very backward step”.

    He urged the government to reconsider and appoint a strong person for the role. Prof King highlighted that the climate change situation has worsened since the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015.

    Tom Burke, former adviser to the first special representative John Ashton, said the removal of the post would be seen as a reduction in Britain’s political focus on climate change.

    Mr Burke, now chairman of think tank E3G, added that without someone approved by the foreign secretary and holding the rank of ambassador, access to key players and influencing other countries on climate change would be limited.

    A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) representative said climate change remained an area of utmost importance to the government and the foreign secretary.

    However, Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat representative on climate change, said the decision to scrap the role indicated that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was not taking the climate crisis seriously.

    Ms Hobhouse called for the immediate reinstatement of the position.

    The Guardian reported in 2018 that the number of full-time officials dedicated to climate change in the Foreign Office had dropped by almost 25 per cent since 2016.

    Critics argue that the UK government’s new energy security plan does not go far enough to meet its international emissions targets under the Paris agreement.


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