From the TUC

Why UKIP can’t get its facts straight on climate change

17 May 2013, by in Environment

Climate change? It’s so last century! Defra, the environment department, is planning to cut the number of civil servants working on how we adapt to climate change from over 30 officials to just six. Today, the government publishes a fire and rescue services review with a reported £200m budget cut. Meanwhile, out there in the real world, firefighters across the UK attended nearly twice as many flooding incidents in 2012 than in 2011. New figures obtained by the Fire Brigades Union under the Freedom of Information Act show UK fire and rescue services were called to 22,518 flooding incidents last year compared with 13,042 the year before. But it all makes perfect sense on Planet UKIP, where “climate change is so last century.”

Thanks to another Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Friends of the Earth, the government revealed that over the past three years the number of civil servants working on Defra’s climate change adaptation activity fell from 38 staff in 2009/10 to 32.5 in 2011/12. Defra faces fresh cuts of £37m by 2015, so staff working on the department’s overarching Adapting to Climate Change programme fall back to just six full-time employees. Wasn’t 2012 England’s wettest year for a century?

John Ashton, the former UK Special Representative for Climate Change, gave a brilliant speech  at the RSA last night. At one point he had 11 members of the UK government playing Germany in an international football match. One of the 11 “own goals” scored by the UK government’s Ministerial team is this move by Owen Paterson: cut the number of staff dedicated to climate adaptation work just as “a major new report that Defra has itself commissioned warns of growing climate disruption in our countryside,” Ashton said.

Friends of the Earth’s Andy Atkins, who hosted the RSA event, accused the government of cutting back on crucial work at a time when climate impacts are having an ever greater bearing on the UK economy.”After a year that has already brought flooding and other extreme weather to the UK, it’s shocking that the department responsible for protecting us against the effects of climate change is to pare its staff to the bone,” he said.

The FBU also revealed that Northern Ireland firefighters went to three times more flood incidents in 2012 than they did in 2011; in Wales the response more than doubled. Despite this, the government has still not given the fire service a legal duty to respond to floods in England and Wales, unlike the services in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “With the government’s climate change projections predicting higher incidences of flooding in years to come, it is absurd that no-one is legally responsible for responding to them in England and Wales. Quite rightly, the public expects firefighters to assist them in these emergencies. But the government must commit to funding the service accordingly, making sure there are the right number of firefighters, boats and other kit available. Providing the fire service with a statutory duty to respond to floods will reassure the public that resources are available to ensure their safety should they be required.”

Here’s UKIP’s energy guru, Roger Helmer MEP: ‘As I like to put it, “We’re not talking green jobs. We’re talking green unemployment”’.