DECC abolished as part of major ministerial overhaul
DECC has been abolished by new Prime Minister Theresa May, with UK energy policy set to be merged into a new ministry called the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Formed amid a wave of a ministerial changes, the new department will be fronted by former Communities Secretary Greg Clark MP, who served as Shadow Energy Secretary for the Conservative Party from 2008 to 2010.
The announcement was confirmed by a DECC official earlier today (14 July), who said that DECC has merged with the department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) into a beefed up business and energy ministry.
Just confirmed that all of DECC merging into Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy under Greg Clarke. Farewell DECC!— Paul Chambers (@PaulCLondon) July 14, 2016
Responding the announcement, the Chair of the ECC Committee Angus Brendan MacNeil MP confirmed that there would be no "immediate change" to the committee's remit, which can only be altered by order of the House of Commons.
The news comes amid a string Government cabinet reshuffles which has seen Andrea Leadsom appointed as the new Environment Secretary at Defra.
Meanwhile, former DECC secretary Amber Rudd has been promoted to Theresa May’s former position of Home Secretary, while ex-Environmental Secretary Elizabeth Truss has replaced Michael Gove as the new Secretary of State for Justice.
DECC axed - the Green business reaction
Good Energy's chief executive Juliet Davenport said:
"In some ways, the name above the door of the civil service department doesn't matter. But now the government needs to prove that climate change isn't slipping down the agenda. I want to see concrete action to transform our energy system and clear policies for meeting the UK's decarbonisation commitments."
New Economic Foundation's environmental economist Stephen Devlin said:
“Abolishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change is a terrible move by our new Prime Minister and signals a troubling de-prioritisation of climate change by this government. This reshuffle risks dropping climate change from the policy agenda altogether – a staggering act of negligence for which we will all pay the price.”
“Theresa May must reaffirm her government’s commitment to the 2008 Climate Change Act. This world-leading piece of legislation commits us to an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 and is one of few remaining silver linings in UK environmental policy. The government must reassure businesses and civil society that the targets under the Climate Act are not up for negotiation.”
Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit's director Richard Black said:
“Greg Clark is an excellent appointment. He understands climate change, and has written influential papers on the benefits of Britain developing a low-carbon economy.
“Importantly, he sees that economic growth and tackling climate change are bedfellows not opponents – and he now has the opportunity to align British industry, energy and climate policy in a way that’s never been done before."
“The disappearance of DECC as a stand-alone government department will of course raise concerns that the UK is going to ‘go soft’ on climate change.
“However, Theresa May has assured Conservative MPs that her government will continue to be an international leader on climate change, and it would be odd not to continue with that when all the most important new trading partners in our post-Brexit world, such as China, India and the United States, are themselves making massive investments in a clean energy transformation."
WWF-UK's chief executive David Nussbaum said:
“Now more than ever the Secretary of State for the Environment has a huge and vital role to play in deciding the future of our country. Key to this ambition will be to develop a 25 year plan for the environment which was also a manifesto commitment; a generational commitment by our country that we will safeguard nature and wildlife, both at home or overseas. Andrea Leadsom should set out the Government’s ambition for world-leading environmental policy, maintaining but also improving on our existing framework of laws, whether national, European or international.”
ECC Committee’s chair Angus MacNeil said:
“DECC’s disappearance raises urgent questions. To whom falls the central statutory obligation, contained in the Climate Change Act 2008, to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% from their 1990 baseline? Which Department will take responsibility for the energy and climate aspects of negotiations to leave the EU? Who will champion decarbonisation in Cabinet? Who will drive innovation in the energy sector?
“Turning to my Committee and the crucial role we play in scrutinising the Government’s energy and climate change policies, we are established under Standing Orders of the House of Commons. There will be no immediate change to our remit, operations or membership, which can only be done by order of the House.”
Friends of the Earth's chief executive Craig Bennett said:
“This is shocking news. Less than a day into the job and it appears that the new Prime Minister has already downgraded action to tackle climate change, one of the biggest threats we face.
“This week the government’s own advisors warned of ever growing risks to our businesses, homes and food if we don’t do more to cut fossil fuel pollution.
“If Theresa May supports strong action on climate change, as she’s previously said, it’s essential that this is made a top priority for the new business and energy department and across government.”
No hands on DECC
The department was created back in October 2008 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown to assume some of the functions related to energy of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) and those relating to climate change of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was the first incumbent of the role. During his tenure, Miliband unveiled the 2008 Climate Change Act which obliged the Government to cut greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050, rather than the 60% cut in carbon dioxide emissions previously announced.
He was succeeded in 2010 by Liberal Democrat and vocal environmentalist Chris Huhne who was praised for taking green issues to the forefront of politics, but accused of failing to prevent solar subsidies changes and tackle rising energy bills.
Fellow Liberal Democrat Ed Davey was next to hold the position, repeatedly making warnings that UK is in danger of missing renewable heat and renewable transport targets for 2020. Davey - who now chairs community energy firm Mongoose Energy - recently told edie that many of his successor’s policies have been "completely irrational", and largely driven by a misguided Treasury.
The position of Secretary of State was held since May 2015 by Amber Rudd, who gave her backing to the removal of subsides to onshore wind and solar; and was recently forced to calm investor fears following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).
The department’s closure has been threatened on a number of occasions in recent years, with several proposed private member’s bills failing to progress beyond the first reading.
DECC has recently faced strong opposition for subsidy cuts for onshore wind and solar; the scrapping of a tax exemption for renewable energy; the postponement of the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction; the removal of zero-carbon homes standards; scrapping the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) completion; the reform of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank.
George Ogleby & Matt Mace