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
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.
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
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Ellen DeGeneres leads Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany in revealing game of Never Have I Ever
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...