Kwasi Kwarteng steps up to BEIS Secretary post as Alok Sharma takes on full-time COP Presidency

The Government has confirmed that Alok Sharma will step down from his position as Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to enable more focus on his role as COP26 President, with Kwasi Kwarteng named as his replacement.

Kwasi Kwarteng steps up to BEIS Secretary post as Alok Sharma takes on full-time COP Presidency

The reshuffle will enable Sharma to focus on the COP26 climate summit full-time. Image: Gov UK

Sharma took up the COP26 Presidency 11 months ago, taking on the role in tandem with his position as BEIS Secretary. As part of a mini cabinet reshuffle, Sharma will now concentrate on COP26 preparations full time.

Energy and Clean Growth minister Kwasi Kwarteng, who was the second-highest-ranking minister in BEIS, will now step into the secretary role. Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was recently named the International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26, will take over Kwarteng’s previous role.

The COP26 President role will reside in the Cabinet Office and Sharma will chair the Climate Action Implementation Committee to coordinate government action towards net-zero by 2050 in the run-up to COP26.

COP26 President Alok Sharma said: “The biggest challenge of our time is climate change and we need to work together to deliver a cleaner, greener world and build back better for present and future generations.

“Through the UK’s Presidency of COP26 we have a unique opportunity, working with friends and partners around the world, to deliver on this goal. Given the vital importance of tackling climate change, I am delighted to have been asked by the Prime Minister to dedicate all my energies to this urgent task.”

The UK’s efforts to shape COP26 have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, with the summit pushed back 12 months to November 2021. This has allowed other nations to table their own net-zero targets, notably China and Japan, while the US is expected to re-enter the global Paris Agreement.

The Government has also unveiled a target to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The target will act as a new Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement, which determines the required domestic action each country must take to help deliver on the global agreement.

Trevelyan will step into the BEIS department and take up Kwarteng’s old position and will oversee the implementation of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

Trevelyan was the first woman appointed to a position of prominence as part of the COP26. Reports emerged that the UK was going to roll with an all-male group to deliver the key climate negotiations, viewed by many green groups as the ultimate opportunity to raise global climate ambitions to the needs of the Paris Agreement. Campaigners are still urging the Government to address the gender imbalance in the build-up to COP26.

Industry reaction 

The reshuffle has been broadly welcomed by green groups, who claim that a full-time COP president showcases the Government’s commitment to the global summit.

Richard Black, Senior Associate at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “Allowing Alok Sharma to focus full-time on his COP26 role is a sensible decision, not least as it signals the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the summit is a success.

“Being President of COP26 needs a full-time focus, but Mr Sharma will also need the full backing of Number 10 and other key parts of Government, such as the Foreign Office. Although the pandemic makes a tough job even more challenging, the Government should focus squarely on building diplomatic alliances as the French did ahead of the successful Paris summit, including with the smallest and least developed nations whose support will be critical for achieving a positive summit outcome.”

The STA’s chief executive Chris Hewett added: “This news highlights the Government’s recognition of the major opportunity that COP26 presents for the UK to lead the charge on global climate change efforts. We wish Mr Alok Sharma the best of luck and offer our support in making this a success.”

“We have developed a good working relationship with Mr Kwasi Kwarteng during his time as Energy Minister, and we look forward to continuing this to maximise the UK’s solar energy potential over the coming years. We congratulate him on his appointment.”

Matt Mace

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