Climate Change has gone! Not from the atmosphere sadly. But from inclusion in the title of a UK government department. The old Department of Energy and Climate Change has been merged with elements of the Department for Business. The result: a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
So what does this uncermonious ommission mean for the green agenda? Will carbon reduction now be made central to business investment? Or consigned to an afterthought?
The first reactions to the news of DECC’s dismantling were distinctly stormy:
But the announcement that Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, would be taking the helm of the new department has helped calm the waters. Clark has been praised by the green sector, both as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and during his time as shadow environment secretary.
He is particularly feted for championing carbon reduction as the path to a stronger economy, rather than a detour. “The choice between aggressive and ambitious action on carbon reduction and a successful, powerful economy is, in fact, not a choice at all – they are one and the same,” was his welcome response to Labour’s 2010 announcement of tougher emmissions targets
His statement this afternoon said nothing to suggest a change of position: ““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.”
Though many will be hoping that the order of his list does not reflect his order of priorities.
He will have to act swiftly, therefore, to reassure environmentalists and investors alike that reducing carbon emmissions will be central to his new department’s brief. A quick ratification of the Paris Agreement would be an excellent start here. As would boosting renewable energy and making good on his 2010 ambitions to support research into Carbon Capture Storage and the roll out of Smart grids.
Such signals will be all the more urgent in light of the appointments of Andrea Leadsom to DEFRA and Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary – both figures renown for their links to the climate-sceptic side of the Conservative party.