Miliband to head new climate department

Former Treasury advisor Ed Miliband has been given a major frontbench role leading a new Government department focusing on climate change and energy.

The creation of the department was among a number of shock changes announced by Gordon Brown on Friday as he confirmed details of a Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Miliband, brother of former Environment Secretary David, will take on areas of policy previously split between Defra and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

The Prime Minister said the changes, which also included the creation of a new Economic Council headed by Peter Mandelson, were necessary to meet challenges that did not exist when Labour came to power in 1997, such as oil price rises.

Mr Miliband – who until last week was Minister for the Cabinet Office – said: “The new department reflects the fact that energy policy and climate change are directly linked.

“My job is to make sure our policy on climate change is fair for ordinary families and our policy on energy is sustainable for future generations.

“We will do all we can to ensure affordable fuel bills for people, put Britain at the forefront of creating green jobs and play our part in ensuring every country meets the climate change challenge.”

The move has been praised by environmental and industry groups, but they were quick to highlight the tough decisions the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will face.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “The first test of his credibility will be whether he stops the UK’s first new coal fired power station in over thirty years at Kingsnorth in Kent.”

Friends of the Earth said the move was a “big step forward” but the test will be how quickly it translates into a shift in policy.

Philip Wolfe, director general of the Renewable Energy Association, said Mr Miliband will have his work cut out meeting European renewable energy targets.

“He also needs to overcome obstacles delaying renewable technologies like wind, bioenergy and marine renewables, and to adopt a more robust approach to renewable transport fuels and decentralised energy technologies like solar energy and heat pumps,” he added.

The Renewable Energy Foundation warned that the UK electricity industry faces a “Herculean” task to replace ageing power stations, reduce air pollution and switch to more renewable power.

Dr Neil Bentley, director of business environment at the Confederation of British Industry, raised concerns about combining the pressures of climate change and energy security.

“Combining them both may help identify both synergies and trade-offs, but we must avoid either one becoming subordinate to the other,” he said.

Government will get a chance to prove whether the rhetoric will translate into action when ministers decide whether to follow the recommendation of the Climate Change Committee that the UK should reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.

Kate Martin

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