Exclusive: Climate scepticism blamed as Owen Paterson slashes spending on global warming

Environment Secretary faces criticism as he cuts the budget for domestic initiatives by 41 per cent

Environment Editor

Owen Paterson has been accused of "incredible complacency" over climate change after new figures showed his department has slashed spending on helping Britain cope with global warming.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) will spend just £17.2m on domestic "climate change initiatives" this financial year, a 41 per cent decline on the previous 12 months, according to its response to a freedom of information request.

The figures will fuel fears that the Environment Secretary's personal climate-change scepticism could be exposing the UK to a higher risk of flooding and other global warming consequences.

Bob Ward, policy director at the London School of Economics' Grantham Research Institute, said: "These shocking figures should worry everyone in the UK. Defra is the lead government department for climate change adaptation and is primarily responsible for making the UK resilient to the impacts of global warming, such as increased flood risk,"

Maria Eagle, shadow Environment Secretary, said such a steep drop in domestic climate change initiatives "reveals an incredible level of complacency about the threat to the UK from climate change".

She added: "This is further evidence that Owen Paterson's unwillingness to accept the science on climate change is leading him to make the wrong choices on spending cuts within his department."

Lest we forget: see the damage that flooding can do

 

Most of the money has been spent helping Britain adapt to cope with the effects of global warming, such as by investing in research projects and giving advice on how to deal with water shortages, soil erosion, and extreme weather.

The rest is being spent on curbing the extent of climate change, for example by monitoring and capturing methane emissions which contribute to global warming and ensuring carbon emissions from agriculture comply with UN and EU regulations.

The dramatic cut in domestic climate change spending comes in Mr Paterson's first full-year as Environment Secretary - he took up the post in September 2012 . The spending now represents just 0.7 per cent of the department's total budget for the year, down from 1.2 per cent last year.

Defra is in charge of preparing, or adapting, Britain for global warming, while the Department for Energy and Climate Change is responsible for mitigating the risks.

Environmental folly: Cutting the domestic climate change budget is a mistake  

One source who worked with the Environment Secretary said: "Adapting to climate change in itself is not a priority for Owen Paterson. He doesn't believe that floods have anything to do with climate change, so he calls the biggest aspect of adaptation 'flood management'. When you talk to him, you don't use words like 'adaptation' - instead you talk about the economic impacts and opportunities and present it as a market solution."

This month, Mr Paterson was asked in Parliament whether he agreed with David Cameron's "suspicion" that climate change was partly to blame for the ferocity of the recent storms - and he failed to answer.

Guy Shrubsole, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: "By cutting Defra's work to protect the UK from climate change and extreme weather events, Owen Paterson has shown that he's unfit for  office. He continues to put more people and their livelihoods at risk."

The freedom of information figures obtained from Defra only relate to spending where the primary aim is to tackle climate change, so exclude some investments which could indirectly help Britain deal with global warming.

A Defra spokesman said: "Defra funds programmes that help protect international forests, cut greenhouse gas emissions and help the UK adapt to a changing climate."

Defra's decreased domestic spending came as its spending overseas increased, from £20.1m last year to £30m this year - almost the same amount as the decline in domestic spending.

But much of this increase can be put down to an agreement before Mr Paterson took over the department in September 2012, following the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun in 2010. This requires Defra to give £140m to the International Climate Fund, which helps the world’s poorest adapt to climate change, between April 2011 and March 2016 – primarily through forest protection.


Watch Owen Paterson discuss long-term flood plans

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Arts and Entertainment
music
News
news

Sport
football

Follow the latest news and score as Chelsea take on Maribor at Stamford Bridge.

Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album