The UK’s energy policy will now be a decided by a new department headed up by former communities minister Greg Clark, who has been appointed secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.
In the wake of a huge cabinet reshuffle, which has seen heads roll across Whitehall in the wake of Teresa May’s rise to 10 Downing Street, a new department has been created to take on the briefs left by the closures of two government departments.
The skills brief of the department of business, innovation and skills has been passed to Justine Greening’s education post, while Clark will take on the increased responsibilities of the business department.
The new role is almost a direct swap with outgoing business secretary Sajid Javid who has been moved to the department of communities and local government (DCLG).
Clark has held the energy portfolio in the past having served as shadow energy and climate change secretary between October 2008 and May 2010 when he became minister of state for DCLG.He has in the past championed the green agenda in two papers written during his time at shadow DECC, leading on the positive economic impact of the UK as a leader in the low carbon economy.
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “Greg Clark is an excellent appointment. He sees that economic growth and tackling climate change are bedfellows not opponents – and he now has the opportunity to align British industry, energy and climate policy in a way that’s never been done before.”
His appointment has also been welcomed by James Court, head of policy and external affairs, who said: “We are delighted Greg Clark has been appointed the new secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy. He previously showed real vision as the shadow energy secretary and we look forward to working with him once again in order to get things moving on the deployment of new renewable energy infrastructure.”
The disappearance of DECC has sparked some concerns from industry and politicians, with Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds today suggesting that scrapping the department could be taken as a signal that the new government attaches less significance to the issues it dealt with.
Commenting on this view, Black added: “Theresa May has assured Conservative MPs that her government will continue to be an international leader on climate change, and it would be odd not to continue with that when all the most important new trading partners in our post-Brexit world, such as China, India and the United States, are themselves making massive investments in a clean energy transformation.”
Despite this, some have reacted with shock and anger to the news. Stephen Devlin, Environmental Economist at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), said:“Abolishing DECC is a terrible move by our new Prime Minister and signals a troubling de-prioritisation of climate change by this government.
“Tackling climate change is an era-defining challenge that must direct and determine what industries we develop, what transport infrastructure we construct, how we manage our land and what our diets look like. It requires a central co-ordinated strategy; if we leave it to the afterthoughts of other departments we will fail.”