UK Foreign Office Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment Zac Goldsmith announced his resignation from his post on Friday, with a sharp rebuke to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s “apathy” towards government efforts to tackle climate change and environmental issues that he said made his role “untenable.”
In his resignation letter, Goldsmith praised the UK’s leadership on environmental and climate initiatives over the past several years, highlighting in particular the UK-hosted COP26 climate conference in 2021, as well as its substantial influence on last year’s international agreement to protect 30% of global land and oceans by 2030 and on efforts to establish a global treaty on plastic pollution.
Under Sunak, however, Goldsmith said that he has “been horrified as, bit by bit, we have abandoned these commitments,” adding that the UK has visibly stepped off the world stage and withdrawn our leadership on climate and nature. Specific criticisms in the letter included the Prime Minister’s decision not to attend “a critically important environment summit in Paris” earlier this month, referring to the Summit for a New Financial Pact, and on effectively abandoning a “pledge to spend £11.6bn of our aid on climate and environment,” and that “the only reason the government has not had to come clean on the broken promise is because the final year of expenditure falls after the next general election and will therefore be the problem for the next government, not this one.”
Goldsmith specifically pointed to the Prime Minister as being responsible for the “government’s apathy,” writing:
“The problem is not that the government is hostile to the environment, it is that you, our prime minister, are simply uninterested. That signal, or lack of it, has trickled down through Whitehall and caused a kind of paralysis.”
Goldsmith’s resignation follows a rebuke on Thursday in a special report issued by the Privileges Committee as part of a group of MPs and peers who interfered with the Boris Johnson “Partygate” probe in the House of Commons.