Claire Perry named as new Climate Change Minister

The ongoing Conservative ministerial reshuffle has seen Claire Perry take over from Nick Hurd as Minister of State for Climate Change, amid concern over new Defra Secretary Michael Gove's track record on green issues.

Hurd leaves the position after almost a year at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to become the new Home Office Minister. His departure will be met with disappointment by the green business community, following an influential role in the UK’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, and robust work to develop the proposed Clean Growth Plan.

Green groups will, however, welcome the credentials of new Climate Minister Perry, who has long promoted action around issues concerning renewable energy and long-term emissions reductions. In a blog post in February 2016, Perry wrote that climate change is “one of the most serious threats we face” and concluded that the Paris deal was a “historic” achievement for the Conservative Government.

Commenting at the time on the UK’s clean energy plans as set out in the Fifth Carbon Budget, she expressed hope for an “ambitious set of targets, that are balanced with keeping costs affordable for consumers.”

“It is only fair to expect bill-payers to support low carbon power as long as costs are controlled,” she said.

‘Unfit for the job’

The news comes as part of a reshuffle of Theresa May’s ministerial team following the UK General Election, which has seen BEIS Secretary Greg Clark listed among the ministers that will remain in their roles. Michael Gove, who has made a shock return to the front bench to lead Defra, has faced intense scrutiny in the last 48 hours over his commitment to the green agenda.

The self-proclaimed “shy Tory” has come under fire for his previous views on environmental issues, namely around a call for the EU’s Habitats Directive to be scrapped. The MP reportedly attempted to remove climate change issues from the school curriculum during his stint as Education Secretary – although Gove insisted at the time that the motivation was to slim down the syllabus and was not borne out of climate scepticism.

His appointment has been criticised by prominent green figures, including Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, who claimed Gove’s voting record shows he is “unfit for the job”.

“It is hard to think of many politicians as ill-equipped for the role as Gove,” said Lucas in an op-ed for the Independent. “This is a man who voted for the fracking nightmare; for putting a tax created to discourage fossil fuels on clean, renewable energy; and against putting our climate targets in line with our international responsibilities.”

Gove has been quick to alleviate concerns over his ambition to promote the environmental agenda. In one of his first moves as Defra Secretary, Gove attacked Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.

“Yes, I think he is wrong,” he said during an interview on Good Morning Britain. “I think that we need international co-operation in order to deal with climate change. And I think the Paris Accord which my friend Amber Rudd had a huge role in helping to shape is a significant step forward.”

George Ogleby

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