UK Clean Growth Plan in ‘holding pattern’ after snap election announcement

Climate Minister Nick Hurd has said the release of the UK's long-awaited Clean Growth Plan is now in a 'holding pattern' of new policy frameworks following Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to seek a snap general election.

Appearing before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee this morning (19 April), Hurd said work to deliver the Plan is “well-advanced”, but was unable to provide any certainty on whether it will be released before or after the poll take place on 8 June.

“There are some unknowns, but I can reassure you that [the release of the Clean Growth Plan] will happen,” Hurd said. “Discussions across Government are extremely active but, as you might expect, yesterday’s announcement [to call a snap election] means it sits in a holding pattern of projects and programmes that Government needs to get out.

“Decisions will have to be taken in quite short order about whether things are going to be announced before or after the election. Therefore, I can’t give the Committee certainty, at least in this moment in time, after yesterday’s events.”

Planning delays

The Clean Growth Plan – also referred to as the Emissions Reduction Plan – will set out how the Government intends to meet the fifth carbon budget, which seeks to limit the UK’s annual emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by the year 2032.

The release of the Plan was first scheduled for 2016 but was postponed due to delays caused by the Brexit vote. In October 2016, the permanent secretary for BEIS Alex Chisholm stated that the Plan would be published by the end of February 2017, and in January Hurd told the BEIS Committee that the Plan would be released by the end of the first quarter of the year.

Following yesterday’s announcement of the snap election, purdah – the pre-election period when Government is barred from making major policy announcements – is expected to be instated within days, meaning the release of the Clean Growth Plan, along with other key green policy frameworks such as Defra’s 25-Year Environment Plan, could face further delays.

Climate leader

Today, Hurd told the BEIS Committee there is “still a bit more work to do” in terms of getting final cross-Government support and approval to release the Clean Growth Plan, but the Climate Minister insisted the Plan will be “robust and ambitious” and will help to underline the UK’s leadership position on tackling climate change.

“UK leadership is enormously important to us,” Hurd said. “We have the potential to build on real leadership in low-carbon vehicle technologies. We have existing leadership in terms of offshore wind and smart energy systems. There’s huge new opportunities in terms of low-carbon heating, energy efficiency services and advanced manufacturing. Given all of those opportunities, of course we want to be ambitious.

“This Government has accelerated the process of ratifying the Paris Agreement. We have shown a   continued commitment to renewables – not least through the [Contracts for Difference] auction that is underway at the moment. I can point to genuine proof points of a government that is taking radical steps to fulfil our carbon objectives.”

Hurd appeared before the Committee alongside BEIS Secretary Greg Clark and Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Energy Jesse Norman to discuss the impact of Brexit on energy and climate change policy. The session focussed on the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) investigation into the energy market and the Government’s response to price rises recently announced by some of the Big Six energy companies.

Luke Nicholls

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