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New UK Prime Minister Scraps DECC, Appoints New Environment Secretary

Theresa May’s appointment as the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister has scrapped the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and appointed a new environment secretary.

28208603932_be88d6ab22_zTheresa May was appointed as the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister on July 13, following David Cameron’s announcement that he would step down following the UK’s decision to exit the European Union. It was only a matter of time before Theresa May would begin making her own appointments. Former Energy and Climate Change Secretary of State Amber Rudd was removed from her position and raised to Home Secretary.

New Appointments & Shake-Ups

In the wake of this, May has scrapped the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and instead appointed Greg Clark as Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy — a new role which will see him take on the roles of the Energy and Climate Change department and Business, Innovation, and Skills department.

“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,” said Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark.

In addition, former DECC minister Andrea Leadsom has been appointed as the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mixed Response

Responses to the new appointments and parliamentary shake-ups have been mixed throughout the community.

“Now more than ever the Secretary of State for the Environment has a huge and vital role to play in deciding the future of our country,” said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK. “Key to this ambition will be to develop a 25 year plan for the environment which was also a manifesto commitment; a generational commitment by our country that we will safeguard nature and wildlife, both at home or overseas. Andrea Leadsom should set out the Government’s ambition for world-leading environmental policy, maintaining but also improving on our existing framework of laws, whether national, European or international.”

Regarding Greg Clark and the scrapping of the DECC, responses have been less favorable.

“This is a major setback for the UK’s climate change efforts,” said Ed Davey, former Liberal Democrat secretary of state at the DECC. “Greg Clark may be nice and he may even be green, but by downgrading the Whitehall status of climate change, Theresa May has hit low carbon investor confidence yet again,” he told the Guardian.

“This is shocking news,” said Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth. “Less than a day into the job and it appears that the new Prime Minister has already downgraded action to tackle climate change, one of the biggest threats we face.

“This week the government’s own advisors warned of ever growing risks to our businesses, homes and food if we don’t do more to cut fossil fuel pollution.

“If Theresa May supports strong action on climate change, as she’s previously said, it’s essential that this is made a top priority for the new business and energy department and across government.”

Others within the community are forcing themselves to look at the potential bright side.

“Investors will seek reassurance that the abolition of DECC does not mean a downgrading of the UK’s commitment to a low carbon economy,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO at the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. “It is critical that the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ensures that climate change policy is integral to industrial and energy strategy. Sustainable economic growth requires low carbon infrastructure investment and therefore investor confidence that the UK will deliver on its climate change targets.”

“We’re looking forward to working supportively with Mr Clark in his new role, as we represent industries that can attract inward investment in the UK, and onshore wind offers the cheapest source of new power for Britain,” said Chief Executive of RenewableUK, Hugh McNeal. “The renewable energy industry has faced some tough challenges over the past year, but now that we have clarity on the make-up of the new administration we can move forward.”

“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,” said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK. “Climate change must be hard-wired into the new Department. Business and our economy need climate change to be at its very heart.”

“The newly created Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy represents a golden opportunity to put sustainable business at the heart of jobs and prosperity,” said Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council. “We warmly welcome the appointment of Greg Clark as its Secretary of State. As a priority he needs to provide reassurance to businesses so they can invest with confidence in a low carbon future.

“However, the loss of a dedicated climate change department has the potential to send the wrong signal to the international community. The Government needs to reconfirm its commitment to the Paris Agreement at the earliest opportunity.”

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