Cabinet Reshuffle: Kwarteng named Chancellor, Rees-Mogg confirmed as Business Secretary and new Environment Minister unveiled
On her first day as Prime Minister, Liz Truss delivered a seismic Cabinet reshuffle that has seen Kwasi Kwarteng step into the Chancellor role, Jacob Rees-Mogg was named as Business Secretary and Ranil Jayawardena take the Environment Minister role.
In her first official speech as Prime Minister, Liz Truss vowed to “deal hands-on” with the energy crisis, with a plan for dealing with rising costs expected later this week.
That plan will likely be set into motion following a cabinet reshuffle that has seen numerous MPs move into different departments. As such, we find ourselves with a new Environment Minister in Ranil Jayawardena and a new Business minister in Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Here, edie rounds up all the key movements for environmental positions (including the former business secretary moving into the role of Chancellor). In fact, let’s start there…
Chancellor: Kwasi Kwarteng
Kwasi Kwarteng had previously been appointed as UK business secretary, taking over from Alok Sharma, who will focus full-time on his role as president of the UN COP26
Kwarteng was one of the architects behind the UK’s revamped Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, unveiled last year, that aims to create the world’s first low-carbon industrial sector while supporting the public sector to decarbonise in alignment with the net-zero target set for 2050.
Aiming to also support the manufacturing and construction sectors, the new measures set out plans to support 80,000 UK jobs over the next 30 years whilst cutting emissions by two-thirds in just 15 years. Longer-term, the Government believes a 90% cut in emissions will be delivered by 2050 compared to 2018 levels.
While it is welcome that the Chancellor will have a knowledgeable background in green policy, there are concerns that Kwarteng will look to redefine certain aspects of what is classed as sustainable. Indeed, the Daily Telegraph reported in May that as Business and Energy Secretary, Kwarteng wanted to ensure that North Sea natural gas extraction is classified as ‘environmentally sustainable’ in the forthcoming finance taxonomy.
Kwarteng has repeatedly argued that the UK will not be able to meet all of its energy needs with renewables and nuclear for “decades to come” and stated that it would be preferable to use North Sea fossil fuels than to import them from overseas.
Kwarteng has allegedly worked with Truss in a bid to weakening climate aspects of key trade deals. In her former role as Trade Secretary, Truss was accused of dropping a string of climate-related commitments as part of a new post-Brexit trade deal with Australia. Leaked emails obtained by Sky News last week suggest that Truss and Kwarteng removed parameters in the deal related to the temperature commitments of the Paris Agreement. Truss has since branded the story as “fake news”.
Cabinet Office: Nadhim Zahawi
Kwarteng replaces Nadhim Zahawi as Chancellor, who only recently replaced Rishi Sunak, moving away from his previous role as Education Secretary, before then resigning.
Zahawi, who was also part of the cohort of MPs to travel to Number 10 to call for the PM’s resignation, has now stepped into the Cabinet Office role as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations.
Zahawi has historically voted against green legislation. The fact that he is a former oil industry executive has also raised eyebrows about his potential approach to the net-zero transition. Zahawi held a high-level role as chief strategy officer at Gulf Keystone Petroleum between 2015 and 2017, which he carried out in addition to being a backbench MP.
However, as Education Secretary, he did spearhead the development of a new strategy that aimed to embed sustainability and climate change awareness into the national curriculum for UK schools.
Environment: Ranil Jayawardena
Ranil Jayawardena, MP for North East Hampshire, is a surprise inclusion to Truss’ Cabinet and takes up the position of Environment Minister, taking over from George Eustice, after previously working under Truss as Minister for International Trade.
As outlined by TheyWorkForYou, Ranil Jayawardena “consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change”. However, in the current context of the energy access and security, it is worth noting that Jayawardena has, generally, voted in favour of adding more regulation in regards to fracking.
He has also written about the need to seize green innovations in a bid to combat the energy crisis. In his May 2022 column, Jayawardena wrote: “We should be in no doubt: there is a global race to develop new green technology, kick-start new industries and attract private investment. But I get that bills are going up. Whether energy bills at home, or grocery bills in the shops.
“By seizing these opportunities we will improve our energy security and help with the cost of living. That’s because we will be less dependent on foreign oil and gas, so less affected by global price rises, and because these new jobs will boost wages across the economy. Tackling climate change and tackling the cost of living are linked more clearly than ever.”
He has also spoke of the need to increase environmental regulation, stating that protecting the environment was “one of the great challenges of the modern age”.
Business: Jacob Rees-Mogg
At the start of the year, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s appointment to the newly created role of Minister for Brexit Opportunities turned many heads. It was a promotion for him, giving him full Cabinet membership. The post that Rees-Mogg has left, Commons leader, is being filled by Mark Spencer.
Rees-Mogg has now stepped into the Business Secretary position. When rumours emerged that the MP for North East Somerset, would take up this position, it was met with claims listed in the Financial Times that he was a “climate dinosaur” who would hinder progress towards net-zero.
It has also been reported that Rees-Mogg has already held talks with oil majors in anticipation that North Sea exploration and extraction will be ramped up under Truss. Indeed, he has previously backed plans for fracking and has said that the UK should go after “every last drop” of oil and gas exploration.
He has previously dismissed concerns around green policies as “climate alarmism” and has opposed the windfall taxes placed onto energy firms.
Last year, Rees-Mogg voted not to require the Financial Conduct Authority to have regard the net-zero target “when setting capital and risk related requirements for investment firms”. He has also voted against adding net-zero considerations to agricultural subsidies and pension schemes.
It has also been confirmed that Graham Stuart has been appointed as Minister for Climate in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Transport: Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Given the aforementioned “climate strings” attached to the UK’s trade deals, it would be remiss not to mention Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was widely tipped to become trade secretary.
However, in the late hours of the cabinet reshuffle, Trevelyan was named Transport secretary, one of the key positions for the UK’s wider net-zero efforts.
In 2020, the Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed was appointed to the role of International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26. But as the first woman appointed to a senior role for the crucial climate summit, Trevelyan has a patchy history on climate action.
Trevelyan previously served as the Secretary of State for International Development (DFID) for six months in 2020 but stepped down when the department was merged with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to create the new department Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. She joins COP26 President Alok Sharma in transitioning from the DFID ministerial team to form part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s key climate cabinet to steer negotiations at COP26.
As noted by They Work for You, Trevelyan has “consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change”. Notably, Trevelyan voted not to call on the Government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030, voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry and voted against a motion calling on the Government “to rebuild the economy so that it works in the interest of the many, not just handing out rewards to those at the top” and bring forward “a green industrial revolution to decarbonise the economy and boost economic growth”. Trevelyan also voted to apply the Climate Change Levy tax to electricity generated from renewable sources.
However, Trevelyan has acted as a vice-chair on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry aimed at improving biodiversity and the environment in the UK and has been pushing for the introduction of an England Peat Strategy, which could assist with natural carbon storage and sequestration.
Other notable appointments has seen former environment minister Therese Coffey appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and she will also act as Deputy Prime Minister.
Alok Sharma keeps his post as COP President, as he prepares to hand over to the Egypt delegation in November.
James Cleverly looks set for a busy few months, stepping into the Foreign Secretary role that belonged to Truss herself. He’ll be working on diplomatic issues such as the ongoing war in Ukraine and efforts to parts of the Northern Ireland protocol – an element of the Brexit deal agreed with the EU.
Elsewhere, Simon Clarke has been appointed secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
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