Boris Johnson ally quits U.K. government with a blast at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

LONDON (AP) — A British environment minister who is close to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson quit on Friday, accusing the current government of apathy toward climate issues.

While Zac Goldsmith cited environmental policies as his reason for resigning, it came after he was asked to apologize for trying to undermine a group of lawmakers who were investigating government rule-breaking.

Goldsmith, a long-time conservationist, said he was quitting the government because Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was “simply uninterested” in the environment.

“This government’s apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we have faced makes continuing in my current role untenable,” he wrote in a resignation letter released on social media.

He said Britain has “visibly stepped off the world stage and withdrawn our leadership on climate and nature.”

Goldsmith, Sunak and Johnson are all members of the governing Conservative Party. Goldsmith, 48, was appointed to Parliament’s unelected House of Lords by Johnson before Johnson resigned as prime minister almost a year ago amid ethics scandals.

Goldsmith’s resignation comes the day after he was among eight allies of the former prime minister criticized by lawmakers for trying to undermine a committee investigating whether Johnson lied to Parliament over rule-breaking government parties during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Privileges Committee found that Johnson — who had remained a backbench legislator after stepping down as prime minister – misled lawmakers, and recommended a 90-day suspension from Parliament. Johnson avoided that ignominy by resigning as a lawmaker after the committee gave him advance notice of its findings.

The panel also said that Goldsmith and the other Johnson allies put “improper pressure” on committee members and mounted “vociferous attacks” on the committee on social media, radio and television.

Sunak said he had asked Goldsmith “to apologize for his comments about the Privileges Committee because I felt they were incompatible with his position as a minister.”

“He obviously has chosen to take a different course,” Sunak said.

Despite the spat over the reason for his resignation, environmental groups said Goldsmith’s comments reflected growing concern about the government’s approach to the environment.

The British government’s climate advisers said this week that the country was becoming tardy in meeting its “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions and has “lost its clear global leadership position on climate action.”

U.K. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 46% from 1990 levels, mainly because of the almost complete removal of coal from electricity generation. The government had pledged to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030. But with just seven years to go until the first goalpost, the Climate Change Committee said the pace of action is “worryingly slow.”

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Source: WT