Update 1/8/16 — BEIS has now officially confirmed that Nick Hurd will take on the role of Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry and Baroness Neville-Rolfe of Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property. Jesse Norman has been appointed Minister for Industry and Energy.
The government’s decision to merge the Department of Energy and Climate Change with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will boost efforts to reduce carbon emissions, it has promised.
This, and the appointment of a number of “Green Tories” to ministerial posts in the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, could help to allay fears that climate change will not be a priority for the new government under Theresa May.
It adds that combining energy policy with industrial strategy will “be beneficial to shaping a competitive business environment for energy intensive industries”. This includes the UK steel sector, where the impact of electricity prices came under scrutiny following the closure of Tata Steel.
It also means that all tasks relating to civil nuclear issues — including nuclear clean-up, which has consumed almost all of DECC’s annual budget — will be brought together under one department.
The new department will continue to exercise joint responsibility with the Department for International Development for the delivery of the International Climate Fund, which is the pot of money that the UK spends on climate related projects overseas.
This has led to confusion about whether the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been stripped of its partial responsibility here, which a spokesperson has denied.
The department will also work closely with the following bodies:
Non-Ministerial Government departments
- Competition and markets authority
- Land Registry
- Ordnance Survey
Executive non-departmental public bodies
- Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service
- Arts and Humanities Research Council
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
- British Hallmarking Council
- Civil Nuclear Police Authority
- Coal Authority
- Committee on Climate Change
- Competition Service
- Economic and Social Research Council
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
- Innovate UK
- Medical Research Council
- Natural Environment Research Council
- Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
- Science and Technology Facilities Council
- UK Atomic Energy Authority
- Central Arbitration Committee
- Competition Appeal Tribunal
- Copyright Tribunal
Advisory non-departmental public bodies
- The Committee on Fuel Poverty
- Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
- Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board
- Council for Science and Technology
- Industrial Development Advisory Board
- Land Registration Rule Committee
- Low Pay Commission
- Regulatory Policy Committee
- Companies House
- The Insolvency Service
- The Intellectual Property Service
- Met Office
- Oil and Gas Authority
- UK Space Agency
The Committee on Climate Change, the government’s independent advisory board, has also offered its support to the new department. In a blog, Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, writes:
The government has appointed Nick Hurd, former parliamentary under secretary at the Department for International Development, to the position of Minister with responsibility for climate change at the new department, according to a letter seen by Carbon Brief. His remit includes steel and representing the UK at UN climate negotiations.
— Leo Hickman (@LeoHickman) July 21, 2016
Meanwhile, Baroness Neville-Rolfe will take on the responsibility of Minister for Energy.
Climate change is not a new topic to Nick Hurd, who has written and spoken on the subject throughout his political career.
He has served on the Environmental Audit Committee and on the Climate Change Bill committee, which helped to scrutinize the 2008 legislation, and was chairman of the climate change sub-group of the Quality of Life policy review commission between 2006 and 2008. He is currently a supporter of the Conservative Environment Network.
He has also opposed the government’s plans for a third runway at Heathrow, partly on the grounds that it would increase emissions from aviation.
During a trip to Zambia in May 2016, where he was promoting the UK’s efforts to improve energy access in Africa, he said that climate change was “one of the most urgent and pressing challenges that we face and without action the world will get hungrier, poorer and more dangerous”.
Here are some of his other stated positions on climate change over the past decade:
2015: On coal and gas
2008: On aviation and Heathrow
2007: On governance
2007: On carbon pricing
2006: On Britain’s role
2006: On deforestation
2005: On climate science
2005: On China and Brazil
Less is known about Baroness Neville-Rolfe’s historic views on climate change. Before entering government in 2013, she was an executive director on the board of Tesco, where she supported the supermarket’s efforts to reduce emissions, and said she was in favour of an international agreement to tackle climate change. She expressed her current thinking during a Lords debate on the fifth carbon budget earlier this week.
2016: On the Climate Change Act
2016: On UK emissions reductions
2016: On the UK’s commitment to climate change
2016: On the Paris Agreement
2016: On shipping and aviation
Main image: Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd at the OGP Annual Summit in London in 2013. Photo: Cabinet Office via Flickr.
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