Greg Clark, new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will lead the UK’s drive on low carbon in the reformed Conservative Government.
DECC no longer exists, subsumed within the new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. DBEIS, if it becomes known that, is certainly a tongue twister.
It’s one of a vast swathe of post-Brexit political changes, moving so swiftly they are nigh on impossible to track. Commentators appear split; does DECC’s dismantling signal trouble for low carbon?
Can low carbon win within the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy?
Firstly, Clark has this to say: “I am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading government’s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change.”
Political words are cheap, but his final sentences hint at an understanding of how essential energy, efficiency, and low carbon will be to successfully building post-Brexit UK business. Some commentators note he has written positive papers on low carbon, and could be a genuine advocate.
But the Guardian writes; ‘The abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been condemned by former ministers as a major setback to British efforts to combat global warming.’
It quotes Ed Davey, who served at DECC: “This is a major setback for the UK’s climate change efforts. Greg Clark may be nice and he may even be green, but by downgrading the Whitehall status of climate change, Theresa May has hit low carbon investor confidence yet again.”
Ed Milliband says the move was, “Plain stupid. Climate not even mentioned in new dept title. Matters because depts shape priorities, shape outcomes.”
Contrastingly, the Policy Exchange argued, “Rather than bemoaning the demise of DECC, we should embrace the creation of DBEIS,”
“DECC has always been regarded as something of a minnow in departmental terms. By merging with BIS, energy and climate change issues can be elevated to a much higher level politically.”
The low carbon viewpoint
Most of the low carbon lobby believes, on balance, that Clark isn’t climate change sceptic. He said, in 2009; “Policies to decarbonise the UK economy should never be treated as some sort of sideshow or distraction. Nor should they be seen as an irrelevance during a time of economic downturn.”
The worry isn’t that Clark won’t fight low carbon’s corner. Nor, post 5th Carbon Budget, that the Tories will sneakily dismantle more green policy.
More relevant concerns are that Clark will be hugely busy; tasked with a massively important brief. Restructuring departments takes time and energy. His department is now embroiled with industry and business, historically high carbon advocates. He must handle these, restructure how work is done, all the while keeping an eye on Europe.
But that challenge is little more than the wider effort facing global business in a climate change world; to modernise viewpoints and transition from carbon to sustainability. It’s one Clark faces whether within or without a dedicated department.
“It all comes down to whether you believe there is much in a name,” says Kevin Cox, Managing Director of Energys Group, an energy efficient technologies specialist.
“Low carbon technology is here and perfectly positioned to help redeploy tomorrow’s greener UK economy. At Energys, we will work with any and every Government department, minister and strategy to realise this aim.
“Hospitals, schools, all need low carbon, efficient options, more than ever if post-Brexit recession fears come true. Energy efficiency saves money. In today’s uncertain world, this certainty is one to which we must hold true. We are ready for the tasks ahead.”