Officials warn UK may miss climate funding pledge; Janice Charette calls for ‘wellness’ focus: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 06/07/2023 | Updated on 06/07/2023
Photo by Tarikul Raana via Pexels

Global Government Forum’s digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

UK will damage global standing if it fails to meet £11.6bn climate pledge, officials warn

Civil servants have reportedly warned ministers that the UK international reputation will be damaged if it fails to fulfil its pledge to provide £11.6bn (US$14.8bn) in international climate funding.

Then prime minister Boris Johnson pledged to double the UK’s international climate finance contributions at COP26 in 2019, promising the commitments would reach at least £11.6bn between 2021-22 and 2025-26.

Though the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said any claims the government was preparing to drop the target were “false”, a leaked document seen by The Guardian revealed that ministers were being briefed that it was unlikely to be met due to underspending, cuts to aid funding and commitments to Ukraine.

According to The Guardian, an official document shows that international climate funding for 2023/2024 and business plan returns for 2023/24 will be c.£1,586m (US$2m), £1.1m (US$1.4m) below that agreed in the last spending review.

The document suggests some decisions that could be taken to meet the target, including delaying the target date, redefining already committed spending as climate funding, and cutting money from other programmes to be reallocated.

However, officials warned that such measures would “be hugely reputationally damaging at a time when the global south mistrusts wealthy countries”, that the “geopolitical ramifications are likely to extend beyond climate… further undermining trust in the UK as a donor” and would be seen as a “backwards step, reducing UK standing and influence in climate negotiations”.

They told ministers that the combination of measures “could get us over the line” but that there would be significant risks associated with uncertainties and that “there is a possibility that we pull out all of the stops, take significant reputational hits in other areas and still fail to hit £11.6bn”.

The UK pledge forms part of the Climate Finance Delivery Plan agreed at COP26, which aims to see £100bn (US$128bn) spent each year internationally on helping vulnerable countries at risk of the impact of climate change.

Read more: Citizens sue EU governments over failure to deliver on climate change pledges

‘Organisational wellness’ key to government’s renewal, says outgoing Canadian public service chief

Janice Charette, who retired as Canada’s top official late last month, has said that the public service must pivot from a focus on organisational health to organisational wellness if it is to meet the demands of the future.

Charette, whose 40-year career included two stints as clerk of the Privy Council, drew attention to the impact of successive crises on public servants’ wellbeing and the need ensure they were in top form to deal with the challenges facing government.

Organisational health – defined as the ability of an organisation to manage and adapt to change – was the “new frontier” in renewing public service, she said in an interview with Employment and Social Development Canada deputy minister Jean-François Tremblay, conducted in both English and French.

“But the conversation we need now is around organisational wellness. How are organisations dealing with one crisis after another, with workload pressures 24/7 and in the complicated and somewhat conflictual operating environments governments are functioning in?”

Charette said examining organisational health meant analysing how structures, controls, rules, processes and oversight was contributing to work overload, long hours and stress, and how these might repel the skilled workers the public sector needed to retain and attract.

In the days leading up to her retirement, she said she believed the era of ‘polycrisis’ would continue to be a feature of public administration and that making sure the public service was fit for purpose “in a very different world” would be a task for her successor John Hannaford, who took over as clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet on 24 June.

Read more: Agricultural advice AI wins Canada’s Public Service Data Challenge

Speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in an interview aired on 25 June, Charette also said the public service needed to accelerate its digital transformation.

“The public service is still working in what I would describe as kind of analog ways and the world has moved on.

“You can make a dinner reservation, you can book a cruise, you can move money in and out of your bank account, transfer between the two of us — it’s remarkable the things you can do in a digital world and the public service, and our service delivery infrastructure has not kept up with that.”

She pointed to long delays for Canadian passports after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

“In all humility, we know we have to do a better job there,” she said.

She added that the public service could be “magnificent” in times of crisis but that maintaining the ability to make decisions and implement policy and services quickly would be a challenge.

In other Canadian news, the government announced that Anil Arora, the country’s chief statistician, is to retire at the end of March next year. His five-year term was due to end this year, but he will stay in post for a few more months to enable the government to appoint his successor and to support a seamless transition.

Arora, who was interviewed by Global Government Forum in 2019 and again in 2020, is a champion of the Public Service Data Challenge, organised by GGF in partnership with Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada and Microsoft. The final was held on 21 June and a team who developed an AI system that uses ChatGPT to provide agricultural advice was crowned the winner.  

Read more: Trudeau appoints new senior rank officials to Canada’s public service

Former Trump aides defend plans to make it easier to fire feds

Two former aides of Donald Trump have defended Schedule F – a plan to make federal employees easier to fire – calling concerns that it would lead to politicisation of the civil service “hyperbolic”.

An executive order signed by then-president Trump in October 2020 sought to move federal workers in policy-orientated roles from the government’s main federal pay scale (known as the General Schedule) to ‘Schedule F’, a new category under which the usual civil service protections would not apply. This would allow the administration to rid federal government of thousands of career civil servants and replace them with political appointees.

Trump was unable to move workers to Schedule F before January 2021, when Joe Biden took office and rescinded the directive. However, it came to light in July 2022 that former aides and pro-Trump organisations had complied a list of 50,000 feds that could be purged if Trump or a Republican in favour of the move were to be elected in 2024.

At an event hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration last week, James Sherk, former special assistant to president Trump, and Michael Rigas, former acting director of the Office of Personnel Management – both of whom work at the Trump-affiliated America First Policy Institute – argued that Schedule F was necessary to improve accountability in government.

The pair believe that it is too difficult for the federal government to fire poor performers and said that during Trump’s tenure, some officials had sought to undermine efforts to implement new policies.

“What we’re all trying to grapple with is, how do we get an executive branch that is responsive to the public, right?” Rigas said. “If you’re the average American, you have one chance every four years to express your preference for how the executive branch should be governed… [Federal employees] are there to carry the mantle of the will that the majority of the people elected to be the president of the United States… If federal employees are unable or unwilling to carry out the lawful policy of the president, I think we have a problem there.”

Sherk denied that Schedule F would return the federal government back to the 19th century spoils system where employment at federal agencies was dependent on partisan loyalty, arguing that the original executive order included a provision barring the termination of an individual based on partisan affiliation.

“You need accountability in government,” Sherk said. “In order to preserve the consent of the governed, the government needs to answer to its elected officials, and right now there are major impediments to that with civil service protections. [The workforce should be] fully accountable, and one aspect of that is the ability to fire. Every federal employee should serve at the pleasure of the president.”

Opponents of Schedule F, including senior Democrats such as Gerry Connolly – former chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations – the Partnership for Public Service, and the American Federation of Government Employees and other unions, argue that it would seriously undermine democracy.

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis – the Florida governor – endorsed Schedule F in March.

Read more: US House Republicans vote to make it easier to fire individual federal officials and cut pay

APS gender pay gap stands at 7.2%, official survey shows  

The Australian Public Service (APS) gender pay gap is 7.2%, according to the 2022 Commonwealth Public Sector Gender Equality Snapshot.

According to the survey by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) and the Australian Public Service Commission, the APS gender pay gap is lower than that of non-APS Commonwealth employers, which stands at 13%.

Fifty-two of a possible 112 organisations participated in the survey and participants comprised 40 APS agencies and 12 non-APS agencies.

The latter group includes the Reserve Bank; national broadband network operator NBN; Australia Post; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Across both groups, the total remuneration – which includes salary, superannuation, overtime and bonuses – gender pay gap of the organisations that voluntarily reported to WEGA is 11.6%. This means that on average women earn 88 cents for every Australian dollar earned by a man.

By comparison, the national Australian gender pay gap stands at 22.8%, equating to women earning 77 cents for every Australian dollar earned by a man – or a difference of AUS$25,596 over the course of a year.

The data for the Commonwealth Public Sector overall showed that 65% of employers have a gender pay gap in favour of men and that none have a gender pay gap in favour of women.

The snapshot shows that only one in five women hold the highest paid jobs in the federal public sector, compared to one in three men, and that women hold 48% of leadership positions at senior executive service level compared with 57% of roles across the service.

Women are 1.5 times as likely to be in the lowest earning quartile.

Of the organisations to take part in the survey, 67% said they had set targets to improve workplace gender equality – 40% of these had a target to increase the number of women in leadership and 19% to increase the number of women in male-dominated roles.

Only 4% had a target to increase the number of men in female-dominated roles, and 10% to increase men’s use of flexible working arrangements or parental leave.

More than 80% of employers reported consulting with employees on issues concerning workplace gender equality, though 67% did not have a formal policy for doing so.  

An amendment to the Workplace Gender Equality Act requires Commonwealth entities and companies with 100 or more employees to report to WGEA from this year. The next reporting dates are 1 September to 31 October 2023.

Read more: Global Government Forum’s Women Leaders Index

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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