New May Government Disbands Energy & Climate Change Department

Under the new government of UK Prime Minister Theresa May, major changes involving the energy and climate change departments have taken place today.

According to pv-tech, the two  departments have been disbanded. The UK’s energy policy will now be decided by a new department headed up by former communities minister Greg Clark, now appointed secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.

10 Downing Street shutterstock_145853606
10 Downing Street

In the wake of May’s rise to 10 Downing Street, the immediate impact of these changes remains yet to be determined, however, May is assuring Conservative MPs her government will continue to be an international leader on climate change issues. She added new trading partners in our post-Brexit world, such as China, India, and the US, are already themselves making significant investments in clean energy.

Clark’s experience includes holding 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 the department of communities and local government (DCLG).

Clark has been involved in blocking a number of solar farms from being developed while in this post. According to the Planning Resource, he dismissed almost 100 MW of solar capacity in the three months to February and has since ruled against a number of solar farms of different sizes, often citing possible harm to the green belt as his reasoning in agreement with the Planning Inspectorate.

Clark is seen as a supporter of fracking. This perception follows a letter which was leaked in July 2015 bearing his name, then energy secretary Amber Rudd, and former environment secretary Liz Truss claiming the ministers wanted “a maturing shale gas production industry” within 10 years.

“He then courted controversy after taking the decision to reject fracking away from Lancashire council, claiming the proposals were “of major importance having more than local significance”.

“However, he has also 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.”

Clark’s 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.”

On the other side of the political scale, climate change campaigners have reacted negatively to the news. Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said, “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.

“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.”

Image via Shutterstock

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