Lord Barker: No reason for UK to appoint another climate envoy

Lord Barker of Battle sees "no reason" for David Cameron to find a successor for him as the Government's climate change envoy, after the Prime Minister confirmed that no one is being lined up for Barker's now vacated post.

Barker, who was appointed as Cameron’s climate envoy in September 2014 before relinquishing the role in March 2015, believes the Prime Minister “remains 100% committed to a progressive climate agenda” and that bringing in a successor to the vacant envoy role would merely “duplicate” the “terrific” work being done by Energy Secretary Amber Rudd.

Speaking to edie, Barker said: “I know that David Cameron remains 100% committed to a progressive climate agenda and he’s demonstrated that time and time again.

“The Climate envoy role was a specific job at an important time and it may be that in the future there will be a need for another envoy, but certainly at this time Amber Rudd is doing a terrific job of leading the Government on international climate change. I see no reason to duplicate that with an envoy role.”

In a recent written answer to Labour MP Clive Lewis on the issue, Cameron stated that the Government’s focus had turned to implementing the recent Paris climate agreement, and that “there are no plans to appoint a new envoy on climate change at this time”.

But, as reported by the Guardian today (7 April), the Prime Minister has come under fire over this decision by opposition politicians who have become increasingly concerned by the Conservative Government’s recent raft of green policy changes. Shadow Climate and Energy Minister Clive Lewis and the Liberal Democrats’ climate change spokesperson Lynne Featherstone have both been vocal over the decision.

Changing policies

Barker, who is now head of sustainability practice at green B2B advertising agency Gyro, explained that the climate envoy role was specifically created in the build-up to the UK’s involvement with COP21 and provided a way for him to continue advising Cameron on climate policy, despite wishing to eventually leave the Government.

“The role of climate envoy was created specifically for me, so I could continue to advise him in the run-up to Paris – despite having asked to stand down from Government prior to leaving the House of Commons,” Barker said.

The ex-Energy Minister, who has long been a supporter of Cameron’s regime, cited the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) recent energy figures which revealed that emissions had fallen by 3.4% in 2015 as “categorical proof” that Cameron and his Government are determined to meet the UK’s climate change targets.

“While people wish there was more in terms of subsidies in the system, the fact is all subsidies are a means to end, which is to deliver a low-carbon economy, and the latest data confirms that is exactly what we’re doing,” Barker said.

Paris and beyond

Barker and Cameron’s insistence that the UK Government is fully focused on implementing the Paris Agreement comes just weeks ahead of the official COP21 signing ceremony in New York on 22 April. That Agreement can only be ratified if 55 countries that make up 55% of global emissions receive approval from lawmakers, and getting the EU – and the UK’s signature – would prove significant.

Both the US and China have agreed to the ratification process, but with developing countries threatening a boycott unless developed countries fulfil their promises, Cameron et al will have to act accordingly to show they’re serious about tackling climate change.

Matt Mace

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