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Paterson gets the boot

Greg Barker has resigned from his post as Energy Minister and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had been sacked as part of Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle.

Barker reportedly informed Cameron of his surprise decision over the weekend. It comes hot on the heels of last week’s High Court ruling that landed the government with a £132 million damages bill for the way Barker handled cuts to the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme. He had put in over 10 years’ continuous service on the Tory front bench.

Exit the ‘badger basher’

Paterson’s exit comes as less of a surprise; he’s been labelled ‘badger basher’ for his pursuit of badger culls and has refused briefings to bring him up to speed on climate science.

As part of its ‘Give Owen Paterson the boot‘ campaign, Friends of the Earth dumped a pile of wellies on the Environment Department’s doorstep last week after a freedom of information request revealed Paterson had rejected the Met Office’s Chief Scientist’s offer to brief him on climate change science days before the release of the IPCC’s first report. Paterson was later criticised for his ‘irresponsible and immoral’ analysis of the panel’s findings.

Guy Shrubsole, the climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth who made the FOI request, said, ‘Putting Owen Paterson in charge of protecting the country from climate change is like leaving the fox to guard the hen house… This is a man who has wilfully ignored modern science, repeatedly ignored offers of expert advice, slashed his department’s spending on preparing for global warming, fudged the figures on flood defence investment and thinks we should all just relax after Britain was hit by the wettest winter ever’.

Rejected climate briefings

Paterson also reportedly turned down climate change briefings from Professor David MacKay, the chief scientific officer at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and had never been briefed by Sir Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said, ‘David Cameron is right to give Owen Paterson the boot – he’s the worst Environment Secretary the UK has had for decades.

‘Mr Paterson has wilfully ignored scientific evidence on climate change, championed pesticide firms instead of bees and massively underinvested in flood defences, leaving thousands of households at risk of future flooding.

‘His successor must show they are serious about safeguarding Britain’s environment and protecting the nation from the growing threat of global climate change.’

History won’t ‘be kind’

Greenpeace Executive Director John Sauven also offered a damning assessment of Paterson’s time at Defra. ‘So for now at least, the badgers have outlasted Owen Paterson’, he said. ‘If history remembers him, it will not be kind. An ideological attachment to climate change denial saw him sack people working on flood defences just when we needed them most. When his own scientists tried to brief him, he refused to hear them out. Hopefully his successor will have an afinity for evidence-based policy-making. Mr. Patterson most certainly did not.’

Paterson’s replacement, Liz Truss, has risen from Junior Education and Children Minister; at 38 she is the youngest woman ever to hold a job in the cabinet.

Lib Dem Minister Ed Davey keeps his job as Energy Secretary until the Autumn party conference. In a press release today, he said, ‘I want to thank Michael Fallon and Greg Barker for their immense contributions to turning around the legacy of energy underinvestment we inherited. I was particularly grateful to Greg for his support on my battles on climate and to Michael, for his backing for my pro-competition approach to the Big Six.’

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