30 JUNE 2023 | NEWS
Lord Zac Goldsmith, the Minister of State for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and the Environment has tendered his resignation today. He had held this role since September 2022.
In a blistering resignation letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, he wrote that he had “struggled even to hold the line in recent months” when it came to political action relating to the environment.
He further stated that it appeared as though Mr Sunak had shown “apathy” to issues relating to environmental causes, saying that the latter appeared “uninterested” in these affairs, which he alleged had created a “paralysis” in Whitehall on the matter.
Lord Goldsmith has been a noted climate activist for many years, and now also sits in the House of Lords, having been made a peer by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he was unsuccessful in the 2019 General Election.
He was also an unsuccessful candidate for the London Mayoral election of 2016, being defeated by his opponent, today’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan.
In his long resignation letter, Lord Goldsmith criticised the Prime Minister’s lack of support for his agenda, saying: “Before you took office, you assured Party members, via me, that you would continue implementing the Action Plan, including the Kept Animals Bill and measures like ending the live export of animals for slaughter, banning keeping primates as pets, preventing the import of shark fins and hunting trophies from vulnerable species.
“But I have been horrified as, bit by bit, we have abandoned these commitments — domestically and on the world stage. The Kept Animals Bill has been ditched, despite your promises. Our efforts on a wide range of domestic environmental issues have simply ground to a standstill.”
He added: “This Government’s apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we have faced makes continuing in my current role untenable. With great reluctance, I am therefore stepping down as a Minister in order to focus my energy where it can be more useful.”
Lord Goldsmith made much reference to the progress that the UK has made around the world – and including its influence among G7 countries – not just environmental issues, but also animal welfare. In particular, he highlighted the country’s world-leading role in legislation on the topic, biodiversity efforts and leadership at environmental summits, such as COP26 two years ago.
He particularly attacked the Government’s abandonment of its pledge to spend £11.6bn of foreign aid on climate and environmental issues, adding: “As a direct consequence of our environmental leadership, we have seen countries previously ambivalent towards the UK stepping up to support us on numerous unrelated issues. We often find ourselves invited to regional environmental summits as the only ‘outsider’ country present.
“It is the UK that civil society routinely turns to for help advancing their cause. In many respects, the UK has become the single most important voice for nature globally.”
In a warning to the Prime Minister that people across the country appear to show great interest in environmental issues when polled, he added: “Even if this existential challenge leaves you personally unmoved, there is a world of people who do care very much. And you will need their votes.”
Lord Goldsmith’s full resignation letter can be read here:
In response, the Prime Minister has written back to Lord Goldsmith, accepting his resignation and making reference to the fact that the latter had been asked to apologise in relation to comments he had made about the investigation by the Privileges Committee into the conduct of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He added: “You have decided to take a different course.”
But he also commended Lord Goldsmith on his record at his ministerial department, referring to “marked UK successes at COP26 and COP27”, noting his “vital contribution to delivering our international climate finance and other programmes”.
The Prime Minister closed by saying simply: “I wish you all the best for the future.”
His full response to Lord Goldsmith can be read here:Letter_from_the_Prime_Minister_to_Lord_Zac_Goldsmith