The UK government has fired dozens of foreign ministry staffers working on global warming issues just months after Prime Minister Theresa May promised to ratify the Paris climate accord by the end of the year.
May’s government slashed two-thirds of the staff dedicated to global warming issues at the Foreign Office’s headquarters, from 26 in July 2013 to just eight today. Overseas climate staff were reduced from 177 to 149, according to the Guardian.
The UK was seen as a major force behind the Paris climate deal, which was agreed to at a United Nations summit in France last year. Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s conservative government participated in the talks.
But that was before the Brexit vote forced Cameron to resign, ushering in a new conservative government under May. And while May has promised to ratify the Paris deal by year’s end, it’s unclear how committed her government will be to actually cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
There’s another wrinkle. President-elect Donald Trump may throw a wrench into the Paris accord by pulling the U.S. out of the deal. That would dash hopes for another climate deal anytime in the next four to eight years — May could be preparing for that.
Earlier this year, May’s government eliminated the country’s global warming bureaucracy, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Some of DECC’s functions were transferred to the newly-created Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“It’s appalling that the number of people working on climate change in the Foreign Office has been substantially reduced, especially now that the DECC has been disbanded,” Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat environment spokeswoman, told The Guardian. Lib Dems are part of the opposition against May’s government.
“It sends all the wrong signals about this government’s commitment to tackling our biggest global threat, and undermines the work being done to encourage other nations to take action,” she said.
The UK isn’t the only country to cut global warming staffers. Australia fired more than 100 climate scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). In total, the government announced it eliminate 350 jobs.
Australian officials said the cuts were made as part of an effort to refocus CSIRO away from climate science and towards cutting emissions and adapting to projected warming.
“We must focus our work on areas of the most benefit and sometimes this means making some tough choices, making changes and most importantly looking 20 years ahead to what Australia will need,” Larry Marshall, CSIRO’s chief executive wrote to employees in February.
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