It’s been a fairly manic few weeks in British politics, to say the least. But among the whole leaving the European Union and getting a new Prime Minister thing, there may be some worrying consequences for the UK’s commitments to climate change and the environment. The new government has decided to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).
In one of the new Prime Minister Theresa May’s first acts, she has passed the responsibility of climate change onto a new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy instead. This has set alarm bells ringing for many politicians, environmentalist, and campaigners, who have variously described the move as “backward”, “stupid”, and a “very real worry”. There is concern that the UK will lose sight of its climate change commitments made at the Paris climate summit last year.
Some worry that the axing of the Decc is something that has long been demanded by climate “skeptic” group Global Warming Policy Forum, and that this is a move to downgrade the priority of the issue, as there is now no department within the government that has “climate change” in its title, fuelling fears that it can now be easily overlooked. All facets to do with the larger issue of climate change, and the country’s pledge to cut emissions, will now be headed by Greg Clark MP, who has been put in place to lead the new business department into which it will fall.
He has issued an official statement saying: “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.” But this hasn’t been enough to alleviate fears. A group of international statespeople, including Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan, have said that they regret the decision and are concerned about the UK meeting the Paris pledges.
The main concern is that the move will send the wrong signals to the world as to how important the UK regards action on climate change, and comes after a long string of moves by the government that many consider to be harming the UK’s ability to cut carbon emissions. From removing the subsidies to solar farms (while maintaining those for fossil fuels) to banning the construction of onshore wind farms, and the passing of legislation that fracking could occur under protected areas, the government has already come under much criticism.