Zac Goldsmith to remain as Environment Minister
Zac Goldsmith will continue to serve as Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs despite losing his seat as an MP in last week's general election.
This evening (19 December), 10 Downing Street confirmed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has chosen to make Goldsmith a life peer – a move which has enabled him to retain his Ministerial role at the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).
“The Rt Hon Zac Goldsmith has been confirmed as a Minister of State (unpaid) at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Development,” the statement read.
“The Queen has been pleased to signify Her intention of conferring a peerage of the United Kingdom for Life on Zac Goldsmith.”
Prior to the general election, Goldsmith had been a prominent green campaigner both within and outside of Parliament. He has written newspaper columns, given talks and aided campaigns around issues such as biodiversity, air pollution and carbon emissions, and is notably against his Party’s support for the Heathrow Airport expansion.
As a result, many figures throughout the UK’s green economy were saddened to hear he had lost his Richmond Park seat to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney.
Reaction to his return, however, has been mixed. This evening, #ZacGoldsmith is trending on Twitter, with hundreds arguing that Johnson’s decision to give Goldsmith a peerage in spite of the election results is not democratic.
Green Alliance’s executive director Shaun Spiers called the comments in this hashtag “a lot of bile”.
“The fact is that Zac Goldsmith is a highly committed environmentalist and very effective minister, so this is good news for anyone who wants to see action on the climate and ecological crisis,” Spiers said.
The move from Johnson comes on the same day that the Queen delivered her State Address to Parliament. Her speech re-affirmed the biggest green promises of the Conservative Party’s manifesto, including its 2050 net-zero deadline and its plan to ban plastic exports.
The Environment Bill, which sets out the UK’s plans for post-Brexit environmental standards and governance, was also touted, and will shortly be put before Ministers.
First, though, the Prime Minister is expected to release his Withdrawal Agreement. Early reports suggest that the new deal may be weaker in terms of environmental provisions than earlier iterations.