Yesterday UK Prime Minister David Cameron reshuffled his cabinet in the first major restructuring since the coalition Conservative-Lib Dem government came to power in 2010. One of the major cabinet changes was that of Environment Secretary – former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson took over from Caroline Spelman. However green groups have expressed their concern saying that Paterson’s track record does not bode well for the environment.
As secretary, Mr Paterson will takeover the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) complete with its £2.2bn budget. However green groups have pointed out that Mr Paterson has stated that he wants to end all energy subsidies and fast-track exploitation of shale gas. If this was to happen, it would devastate the UK’s goals to reduce its greenhouse gases and increase renewable energy production.
Paterson has also campaigned against plans to expand output from Welsh wind farms because of the impact of pylons on the landscape during his time as an MP for North Shropshire and said he is in favor of culling badgers. That’s right! He hates badgers! He also happens to be the brother-in-law of the leading climate change skeptic Matt Ridley and is all for expanding airport capacity.
However Mr Paterson’s track record isn’t completely without merit. As shadow fisheries minister from 2003-2005, he was widely praised by environmentalists for his conservation-minded policy paper on fishing – but his installation, along with the removal of Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers from the Department for Transport, has raised concerns that Mr Cameron is clearing the way for a Conservative U-turn on its opposition to a third runway at Heathrow before the next election.
This has, of course, caused several environmentalists to prepare for the worst, including London Mayor Boris Johnson who fumed to BBC News: “There can be only one reason to move her (Ms Greening) – and that is to expand Heathrow Airport.” One can only imagine how Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg thinks of all this…
via BBC News