David Cameron has no plans to appoint a new climate change envoy, a role he created in the run-up to the landmark Paris climate summit.
Opposition politicians said it showed Cameron had given up any pretence of leadership on climate change and that he was sending out the wrong signals by not filling the role.
Lord Barker of Battle was appointed in September 2014 to the position, which Cameron created days before he addressed a high-profile UN summit and warned climate change was “one of the most serious threats facing our world”.
Barker, a loyal ally of Cameron who accompanied him in 2006 to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard where the then opposition leader was famously photographed hugging a husky, stepped down from the envoy role and as an MP last year.
It was then unclear whether a new climate envoy would be appointed to replace him, but Cameron said in a recent written answer: “The focus now is on implementation [of the Paris deal]. There are no plans to appoint a new envoy on climate change at this time.”
The shadow climate and energy minister, Clive Lewis, said: “The prime minister promised the greenest government ever but he is axing carbon capture, cutting energy efficiency, blocking wind power, threatening the solar industry and selling off the green bank.
“Now he’s giving up even the pretence of leading the battle against climate change, by abolishing the post of his personal climate change envoy only 18 months after creating it – a decision that the government didn’t even announce, in the hope that no one would notice.”
Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrats’ climate change spokesperson, said: “The role in itself is not the issue for me, but what it represents. It is a clear signal that you care about this issue and that you want someone around the table making the case for our environment and green issues in key government discussions.
“This prime minister has shown that he doesn’t want that and has downgraded our response to climate change. It’s short-sighted and wrong.”
Although the UN climate summit in Paris last December was broadly acclaimed as a success because nearly 200 countries agreed a deal on curbing emissions, top diplomats involved with the process say Paris only marked the beginning and governments now have to get on with the real action of implementing it.
Countries are being invited for the formal signing of the Paris agreement on 22 April at the UN headquarters in New York.
China, the US, India and the EU, the world’s four biggest emitters, have all already said they will sign at the ceremony, which former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has called an important opportunity for world leaders to give new “impulse” to action on climate change.
The Paris accord only formally comes into effect when countries responsible for more than 55% of global emissions ratify it.
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