UK NGOs concerned as Theresa May Abolishes Department of Energy and Climate Change

Published by Dave Brooks on

July 15th, 2016

Public figures and NGOs in the U.K. have expressed concern over new Prime Minister, Theresa May’s decision to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

It was announced this week, following her cabinet reshuffle that the DECC would be dismantled and that its functions would now be carried out by the newly formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under Secretary of State Greg Clark, M.P.

This is seen by many as a downgrading of the priority status given to Climate Change, given that the department does not have the words Climate Change in its title. Former Labour leader and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband responded to the news with dismay in a tweet:

Angus MacNeil, chair of parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee, raised the practical question of administration of Climate Change targets: “to whom falls the central statutory obligation, contained in the Climate Change Act 2008, to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% from their 1990 baseline?”

The Elders, a group of Global Leaders working together for peace and Human Rights, which lists Mary Robinson, Kofi Annan and Desmond Tutu, stated that the move did not set a good example of leadership on Climate action.

CEO of Friends of the Earth UK, Craig Bennett commented: “This is shocking news. 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.”

However, Secretary of State Greg Clark’s record on Climate Change may be a source of hope that Climate Change may continue to be taken seriously. Between 2008 and 2010, while in opposition, he was shadow Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, and showed himself to be well briefed on Climate issues. This, and the fact that the UK is already bound the Climate Change Act (2008) to step-by-step reductions in greenhouse gas reductions through to 2050, have lead analysts such as Roger Harrabin to be slow to condemn the move, which embeds responsibility for climate within a department that is developing a low-carbon industrial strategy. David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, shares this perspective, commenting: “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.”

While it may be too soon to tell whether this move represents a step in the wrong direction for Climate action, the decision on Hinkley Point nuclear station and the publication of the government’s Low Carbon strategy due later this year will offer an objective picture of the new government’s commitment to taking action on this pressing issue.

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.