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Local leaders denounce list for head of climate monitoring committee due to connections with Conservative party.
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Local leaders denounce list for head of climate monitoring committee due to connections with Conservative party.

Critics claim that the appointment of a Conservative loyalist to lead the Climate Change Committee (CCC) is an attempt by Westminster ministers to weaken the authority of the UK’s net zero watchdog.

The heads of the decentralized administrations in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have declined to endorse any of the six finalists, citing their strong affiliations with the Conservative party and lack of representation for various demographics.

The line has greatly hindered the UK government’s efforts to name a replacement for John Gummer (also known as Lord Deben), the initial chair of the committee and a former Conservative Party minister. Gummer had consistently criticized ministers for not being bold enough in their approaches to combatting global warming.

As the CCC has a legal responsibility to monitor climate policies for the government of the United Kingdom and all three devolved administrations, approval from all four nations is necessary for the shortlist.

The Welsh and Scottish governments were the first to object to an initial shortlist of candidates and the latest list. The Northern Irish government tabled its objections after power-sharing resumed at Stormont last month.

According to a high-ranking insider, officials in Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Stormont believed that the Conservative party was intentionally trying to secure a Conservative leader for the CCC, assuming that Labour would win the upcoming general election.

He stated that similar concerns have been raised about the possibility of favoritism in the BBC and Ofcom leadership appointments. He also mentioned that the UK government was aware that Deben’s replacement would hold the position for a decade.

A source from Whitehall mentioned that the inability to reach a decision on a list of candidates may result in restarting the entire hiring procedure.

The most recent list, which features the preferred candidate of the government, Sir Ian Cheshire, who also served as the chair of Barclays Bank, consisted of multiple current or former Conservative Members of Parliament and peers, as well as one other individual from the business world who is reported to be a devoted supporter of the Conservative party. Among the group were also several former Conservative government officials.

There were a total of two female individuals, and they all seemed to be of Caucasian descent. The current board of the CCC does not include any members from minority ethnic groups, with only one woman currently serving on the board. Additionally, there is a lack of representation from minority ethnic groups on the adaptation committee.

The individual stated, “There is a significant lack of diversity present.”

The list of finalists for the chair was determined through an openly competitive process, allowing anyone to apply via a government website. According to The Guardian, around 60 individuals submitted their application last summer. The devolved administrations have confirmed that proper procedures, as outlined by the Climate Change Act, were followed.

On Thursday, the Welsh government announced their dissatisfaction with the list of candidates proposed by the Westminster administration. According to a spokesperson from the Welsh government, Welsh officials have expressed reservations about the selection of candidates presented by the UK government.

The Climate Change Committee has a crucial responsibility in aiding the UK nations in reaching net zero emissions and developing resilience against the effects of climate change. Being perceived as trustworthy is essential to its mission, along with having the public’s trust in its advocacy. We are eager to engage in talks with all four UK governments about implementing a renewed hiring procedure.

In a letter to Graham Stuart, the Welsh climate minister Julie James expressed her disappointment with the list of candidates deemed appointable by the advisory assessment panel. She noted the lack of diversity in the list and believed that it did not meet the necessary standards for such a vital and prominent position.

The Welsh Tories heavily denounced the decision made by Welsh Labour leaders. Andrew RT Davies, who leads the Welsh Conservative party, stated: “This is another example of the radical ideology that drives Labour. We have seen this too many times from Labour officials in Wales, and there is no doubt that Keir Starmer would act similarly if he were to become Prime Minister. Labour should prioritize traditional experience and qualifications when selecting candidates, rather than basing decisions on unchangeable characteristics.”

The problem has arisen during a period where addressing the climate crisis is a primary concern for Wales. On Wednesday, a large number of farmers demonstrated at the Senedd to voice their discontent with the Labour-led government’s proposed changes to farming payments, which involve converting certain farmland back to natural habitats in order to help address the climate crisis.

The Welsh portion of the Covid investigation has now shifted to the conflicts between Welsh officials and their counterparts in the UK during the pandemic, coinciding with its start in Cardiff this week.

Deben served as a minister of agriculture and later as the secretary of environment under the administrations of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. This raised questions about the suitability of having another Conservative as his successor, according to the source.

“I can’t rewrite”

A representative from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero announced that the government has selected a capable chair and deputy chair for the Climate Change Committee. Thorough research has been conducted and all devolved administrations were consulted during the selection process. In the meantime, Piers Forster has been named as interim chair to ensure that the committee can continue functioning until a permanent chair is chosen.

Source: theguardian.com