DECC’s new minister - can he mix business and climate?
- 03 Feb 2012, 15:30
- Ros Donald
Liberal Democrat business minister Ed Davey
has been named the UK's minister for energy and climate change
after Chris Huhne announced he is stepping down from cabinet. We
check out his climate credentials and consider how he'll bring his
experience as a business minister to bear on the energy and climate
Huhne, who was minister for the Department of Energy and Climate
Change (DECC) since the coalition government was elected in 2008 2010, will now
appear in court to answer charges that his former wife, Vicky
Pryce, took speeding
points on his behalf. One of the political consequences
of Huhne's departure is the obvious effect it will have on the UK's
climate change policy.
Davey - until today minister for employment relations, consumer
and postal affairs at the department for Business, Industry and
Skills - has garnered praise from prominent Conservatives for his
pro-business views. He also has a record of voting for tough
climate policy measures and backed funding new supercomputers for
the Met Office. Perhaps not surprising for a Liberal Democrat - the
question might be how well will he be able to square the climate
and business agendas in office.
Conservative Home says treasury sources are hoping
the politician to replace the "formidable" Huhne will be more
pragmatic than his predecessor - whose "energy policies have been
hurting UK manufacturing". The blog also predicts UK chancellor
George Osborne will "see the change as an opportunity to kick some
green policies into the longer grass".
As we blog here,
Osborne has made coded attacks on the idea of reducing carbon
emissions, including questioning expectations that the UK would
lead carbon reduction in Europe, and has tipped his hat to the
argument that environmental regulations are behind rises in energy
But while Conservative Home notes David Cameron's aide, Steve
not convinced about global warming) has applauded Davey's
business credentials, it remains to be seen what approach Davey
will take on topical environmental issues - such as the UK's
legally-binding carbon reduction targets.
According to The
Public Whip, Davey has a strong voting record on climate
mitigation policy. He's backed measures such as emissions
performance standards for power stations and including aviation and
shipping emissions in the Climate Change Act's reduction targets -
measures for which there are less enthusiasm in other areas of
Outlook hopeful for the Met office
During his time at BIS, Davey also oversaw the UK's weather
forecasting and temperature recording service, the Met Office. He
late last year before the government's science and technology
select committee supporting the Met Office's request for new
supercomputers to help improve its forecasting capability.
"While you do have to build a business
case, I think it is sensible to invest in scientists and facilities
that may be able to improve forecasting."
Davey defended the office's forecasting record against criticism
by MPs, saying its output is regarded as "the best in the world" in
terms of reliability. On Davey's watch, the government has also
shelved plans the Conservatives proposed while in opposition to
privatise the Met Office. Davey said the current government plan to
reposition the office within a new public data corporation "would
have to overcome 'difficult hurdles' [...] such as guaranteeing
continued access to 'absolutely vital' information".
Of course it's impossible to tell what he's going to do at DECC.
But with a business background and at least some working knowledge
of the field, it'll be interesting to see how he intervenes in the
continuing tussle between different sections of the government over
climate and energy legislation.