Figures released under a Freedom of Information request indicate that climate change has been a victim of the UK government’s austerity cuts. The request to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) – which plays a lead role in assisting people in some of the most at-risk countries on earth on climate change and energy (CCE) issues – reveals that since the Tories were returned to power in 2010, the number of staff working on CCE issues has more than halved:
In 2011 there were 554 members of FCO staff working on CCE issues (500 part-time and 54 full-time). Within a year the cuts had already begun to bite, with 473 staff working on CCE issues (425 part-time and 48 full-time). The cuts continued through the first ConDem government before accelerating dramatically from 2015. By the beginning of 2017, the number of FCO staff working on CCE issues had been slashed to just 221 (199 part-time and 22 full-time).
According to the FCO, some of the fall in numbers is because work is now undertaken by staff stationed overseas:
“FCO has interpreted UK-based staff as staff stationed overseas and in London, but does not include locally engaged members of staff. It therefore significantly under-represents the full scale of activity undertaken.”
However, another Freedom of Information request reveals significant cuts to overseas staff too. In 2011 there were 204 FCO overseas staff (down from 277 in 2009) working on CCE issues. By 2016 this had been cut to just 149.
Following the disbanding of the Department for Energy and Climate Change immediately after the Tories were re-elected in 2015, and given the anti-climate stance on issues like fracking and renewable energy development, the cuts to FCO climate change and energy staff (and the projects they were working on) indicate a government as hostile to the environment as it is to the nation’s healthcare and its most vulnerable citizens.