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Goodbye DECC! Closure announced within hours of new PM taking office

Posted by Gabby Mallett on 15 July 2016 at 2:05 pm

I don’t want to say it’s a bad thing yet, I would like to give it a chance, but it seems that the general opinion is that it is pretty ‘shocking’ ‘stupid’ and ‘backwards’.  Theresa May, our new prime minister, within hours of taking office, has scrapped the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).  Mrs May has moved energy into the previous department for business innovation and skills and has now renamed it as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The new department will be led by Greg Clark (pictured) who is not new to the energy or climate change agenda as he was shadow secretary of state for DECC from October 2008 until May 2010. His own website explains that he was ‘responsible for two landmark policy papers in Energy and Climate Change policy: "The Low Carbon Economy" and "Rebuilding Security", which set out how a Conservative Government will make Britain a leading player in the low carbon economy’. 

On his appointment Mr Clark said that he was ‘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’. 

More recently Mr Clark has been Communities Secretary which has seen his remit include topics around housing, starter homes and neighborhood planning. He was also responsible, jointly with Amber Rudd, for commissioning the Every Homes Matter Review into Consumer Advice, Standards, Protection and Enforcement around energy reductions in our homes, which is likely to report in the next month or so.  This sounds to me as though he could be just the right person for the job.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a non-profit organisation that supports informed debate on energy and climate change issues in the UK, welcomed Clark’s appointment noting that ‘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.’  Mr Black also noted that 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 he continues that the development of the new department ‘opens up the exciting option of an innovation and industry strategy’.

It all sounds good so far, so why any pessimism?  Well many people are not happy with Climate Change being dropped from the name.  Many would argue that Climate Change is such a massive threat to the UK, and indeed the world, that it requires its own department rather than being just one focus area in another.

Caroline Lucas, Green party MP said the loss of DECC was a "deeply worrying move".  She explained that "dealing with climate change requires a dedicated minister at the Cabinet table.  To throw it into the basement of another Whitehall department looks like a serious backwards step."  She has also retweeted others who describe the development as ‘shocking, stupid and backwards’.

Ed Miliband, former Secretary of State for DECC from October 2008 to May 2010, opposite Greg Clark, tweeted "DECC abolition just plain stupid. Climate not even mentioned in new dept. title. Matters because depts shape priorities shape outcomes."

Many other critics also point to the upheaval of merging departments and the inevitable cost of doing so.  The Institute for Government, an independent charity working to increase government effectiveness, stating that ‘further changes to BIS, DECC and DfE were unexpected, and will inevitably come at a cost’.  They further explained that ‘beyond these costs, departmental changes cause a massive distraction, with the initial transition taking months, and full integration taking years."

So there seem to be positives and negatives about the demise of DECC and the creation of this new Department.  Only time will tell if Climate change, Energy Efficiency and Renewables will get the attention they need and deserve.

Watch this space.

Photo: Greg Clark from gregclark.org

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