The government has axed the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) in a major shake-up. The brief will be folded into an expanded Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under Greg Clark.
In his statement, Mr Clark appeared keen to calm concerns about the priority given to tackling global warming.
He said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading Government’s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change.”
Andrea Leadsom, who ran against Theresa May for the Conservative leadership, is the new Environment Secretary and re-iterated that there will be no deviation from long-term carbon targets.
Although there are concerns about Leadsom’s lack of top-level political experience, absence of track record in farming or environmental areas and ideological approach to policy, she is on record on the issues of climate change and fracking when a minister at the department of energy in 2015.
“When I first came to this job one of my two questions was: ‘Is climate change real?’ and the other was ‘Is hydraulic fracturing safe?’ And on both of those questions I am now completely persuaded,” she told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil in October last year.
While some Green types may disagree about fracking, this represents a considerable step forward from the curious period of Owen “the badgers have moved the goalposts” Paterson who made several strange and ideologically driven decisions while in office: he cut funding for climate change adaptation by approximately 40%. In 2014 the outgoing Environment Agency chair Chris Smith said that flood defence budget cuts had left the agency underfunded and hampered its ability to prevent and respond to flooding in the UK.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas described the shutting down of the climate change department as “deeply worrying”.
“The decision to shut down DECC is a deeply worrying move from Theresa May. Climate change is the biggest challenge we face, and it must not be an afterthought for the Government,” she said.
The move was greeted more positively by David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, who commented: “The new Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy can be a real powerhouse for change, joining up Whitehall teams to progress the resilient, sustainable, and low carbon infrastructure that we urgently need.”