New PM Theresa May has scrapped the government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in favour of a combined Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department.
The announcement was the largest infrastructural change coming out of the new Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle, with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) also abolished as part of the move.
Greg Clark was named as secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy. His role replaces both Amber Rudd as energy and climate change secretary and Sajid Javid as business, innovation and skills secretary.
Formerly secretary of state for communities and local government, Clark had also served as shadow secretary for energy and climate change between 2008 and 2010.
In a statement, he said: “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.”
It is currently unclear what effect the move will have on the government’s existing and future energy and climate change activities.
Concerns have been aired that the dropping of ‘climate change’ from a departmental title could be a precursor to less government action.
James Thornton, chief executive of environmental law group, ClientEarth, said the move “sends a terrible signal at the worst possible time, undermining efforts to secure a clean, safe energy future.”
However, Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “Creating this new department opens up the exciting option of an innovation and industry strategy that enables companies in the clean energy supply chain to expand and thrive together.”
Black was also positive on Greg Clark’s appointment: “He understands climate change and has written influential papers on the benefits of Britain developing a low carbon economy.
“Importantly, 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.”
In a separate move, Andrea Leadsom, who was previously energy minister at DECC, has been appointed new secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs and will head up Defra.