Cabinet reshuffle: All the key personnel changes that will impact the green economy

BREAKING: Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has been sacked and replaced by George Eustice, while Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has been replaced by International Development Secretary Alok Sharma, who has also been named as COP26 President.   

Cabinet reshuffle: All the key personnel changes that will impact the green economy

(Top-left to bottom-right): Alok Sharma; Rishi Sunak; George Eustice; Andrea Leadsom; Sajid Javid; and Theresa Villiers have all been in in the spotlight as Boris Johnson wields the axe at his Cabinet

In Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first major cabinet reshuffle since the Conservatives secured a landslide general election victory, both the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) secretaries have been sacked.

And rounding off a dramatic day in Westminster, Sajid Javid has quit as Chancellor, one month before he was due to deliver his first Budget announcement.

Villiers and Leadsom OUT…

Environment Secretary Villiers and Business Secretary Leadsom were appointed to their respective roles in the July 2019 cabinet reshuffle, following Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister.

But a little over six months later, both have been replaced, with Eustice taking up the Environment Secretary position while Sharma has been brought in as BEIS Secretary.

Today’s announcement means that the three big female appointments to climate-related positions of the July cabinet reshuffle have all been sacked. Former UK energy minister Claire O’Neill was recently removed as the president for the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, with a replacement for that presidency role yet to be agreed.

Villiers returned to Government in July by taking over from Michael Gove as UK Environment Secretary and stepped into the Department having previously been Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a minister in the Department for Transport. It is mooted that Villiers will step back into the role of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Leadsom, meanwhile, had previously served as Minister of State for Energy at the now-defunct Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) from May until the Brexit referendum in 2016. She was then given the job of Environment Secretary in July 2016 as part of Theresa May’s first reshuffle as Prime Minister, which she held until the following summer’s general election.

George Eustice IN to lead Defra

George Eustice has taken the reins at Defra, having only been given back his former role as Agriculture Minister by Johnson in July. He is the seventh Environment Secretary since 2010 and replaces Theresa Villiers who was sacked earlier this morning.

Eustice, the MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, said in a letter of resignation in February that he believed Theresa May’s management of Article 50 would lead the EU to be “dictating the terms” of Brexit negotiations, and risk leaving the UK “humiliated”.

Brexiteer Eustice has since resumed his ministerial post at Defra, covering agriculture, fisheries and farming. He played a key role in developing the UK’s Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill, designed to preserve standards after Brexit. His early life is steeped in farming and with strong committee experience in the environmental field (he was Defra’s longest-serving minister before leaving over Brexit). If appointed, it is likely that he will play a key role in the negotiations with the EU as the UK weans off the Common Agricultural Policy.

Eustice has voiced his opinion that the environment shouldn’t come as an expense to trade deals. You can read more about his announcement here.

Alok Sharma IN as Business Secretary and COP26 President

Alok Sharma has been confirmed as the replacement for Leadsom at BEIS. Sharma was appointed Secretary of State for International Development on 24 July 2019. The Reading West MP served as Housing Minister between 2017 and 2018, and as Employment Minister from 2018 to 2019.

Sharma has previously called on the World Bank to funnel more investment to tackle climate change in developing countries and has pushed for an “anti-poverty approach” in regards to the UK’s contribution to the Bank’s concessional loan facility.

As International Development Secretary, Sharma was at the UK-Africa summit and announced that the UK will partner with Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda to design a new facility to support finance to a range of “environmentally-friendly” infrastructure projects. Around £2bn in energy deals were agreed at the Summit, but it has been revealed that 90% were for fossil fuels.

The UK is one of the few countries to meet UN targets for spending 0.7% of national income on overseas development assistance, although the UK is still funding fossil fuel projects in these nations.

In various speeches, Sharma has focused on the preservation of biodiversity and reforestation and mobilising private sector investment as ways to combat climate change. However, he has predominantly voted against climate change legislation. In 2016, He voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry. In 2019, he voted against the Green Industrial Revolution “Programme for the Many”.

In a surprising announcement, Sharma has also been named as COP26 President. The Financial Times’s chief political correspondent Jim Pickard believes that the minister role is the same as the presidency title previously held by Claire O’Neill. As such, Sharma will oversee the delivery of the climate conference in Glasgow later this year.

edie has examined Sharma’s views on climate change, which can be read here.

Sajid Javid RESIGNS one month before ‘green budget’

It has been confirmed that Sajid Javid has resigned as Chancellor. During his time as Chancellor, Javid had promised to prioritise green spending in the next Budget – its first since the 2050 net-zero target was enshrined in law – alongside investment in public services.

Specific details regarding where new funding will be invested are sparse at present, but emissions-related measures given significant weight in the Conservative Party’s manifesto include carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen, nuclear power and energy efficiency measures for the built environment.

He was expected to announce the creation of a new task force in order to modernise and optimise the Government’s tax and spending, and to better even out the way funding is allocated between UK regions. Environmental research has repeatedly suggested that although the north of England is primed to lead the nation’s low-carbon transition, a lack of Government support for infrastructure and skills has hampered progress.

Reports had suggested that Javid would use the 11 March Budget announcement to detail not only new spending, but a shake-up for his department. More recent reports suggest that Javid was offered to stay on as Chancellor on condition he fired all of his advisers, which he refused.

Javid has been replaced by Rishi Sunak, who steps up from the role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Sunak is a former Goldman Sachs investment analyst and also work for hedge fund management firm The Children’s Investment Fund Management. It is hoped the Sunak can combine his finance expertise to drive investment in the green economy, of which he has some knowledge of. Between 2015 and 2017, Sunak was a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

There are concerns this could halt the promised “green budget”. Read here to find out more.

Shapps REMAINS as Transport Secretary

In one of the last announcements of the day, it was revealed that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has kept his role. Last August, Shapps announced new funding that will enable local authorities across the UK to collectively install more than 1,000 on-street EV charging points. Such points, the Department for Transport (DfT) claims, will help boost EV uptake among those who do not have off-street parking.

However, DfT will need to roll out more initiatives to respond to claims that it is “going rogue” on climate change issues by “side-lining” emissions reductions in its strategies and projects.

Matt Mace

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