Thursday, 4 February 2021
Climate confusion in UK Government
Letter submitted to The Times newspaper: The headline over your environment editor’s article on the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report (Feb3) on Achieving government’s long-term environmental goals read "Defra ‘lacks clout to lead on climate’.” This was misleading. The PAC did not say what your headline writer placed in inverted commas; they have compressed an actual quote for convenience. What the PAC actually wrote was: “The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has the policy responsibility for the environment, but not the clout to hold other departments to account or manage trade-offs between policy areas.” (paragraph 2, page 5)(https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/4513/documents/45674/default/). Defra is not the lead government department on climate change: this is the Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS), although with the recent creation of the stand-alone President of the Conference of Parties (COP26) for the UN Convention on Climate Change, in the person of former Business secretary Alok Sharma, currently embedded within the Cabinet Office, it may be argued there are three departments – each underwritten by the Treasury - now taking forward UK climate policy.