The UK Government has abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
The functions of DECC will be transferred to the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, headed by Greg Clark.
Former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has been appointed as the new Home Secretary while Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has been transferred to the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The announcements are part of new Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle and major departmental shake-up.
DECC, supported by eight agencies and public bodies, worked to make sure the nation has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies and promote international action to mitigate climate change.
Targets included cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and sourcing 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
DECC employs around 1,600 staff based in London and Aberdeen however a spokesperson told ELN it is unable to clarify details on what will happen at this stage.
Caroline Lucas MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group said the decision to shut down DECC “is a deeply worrying move”.
She added: “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.”
John Sauven, Executive Director at Greenpeace welcomed Mr Clark as the new energy minister but said: “The energy and climate change department has been broken up and put back together without the name ‘climate change’. Although, some might say ‘what’s in a name’, there is a very real worry that the progress made on tackling climate change ould be relegated to the bottom of the in-tray. Business, energy and industrial strategy must have green innovation and job creation at its heart.”
Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett added: “This is shocking news. Less than a day into the job and it appears that the new Prime Minister has already downgraded action to tackle climate
change, one of the biggest threats we face.
“If Theresa May supports strong action on climate change as she’s previously said, it’s essential that this is made a top priority for the new business and energy department and across government.”
The Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) is concerned the disappearance of DECC “raises urgent questions”.
Chair Angus MacNeil MP questioned: “To whom falls the central statutory obligation, contained in the Climate Change Act 2008, to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% from their 1990 baseline? Which department will take responsibility for the energy and climate aspects of negotiations to leave the EU? Who will champion decarbonisation in Cabinet? Who will drive innovation in the energy sector?”
He added there will be no immediate change to the ECC’s remit, operations or membership, which can only be done by order of the House.
The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) however welcomed the decision to abolish DECC, stating the organisation and its chairman Lord Lawson have been calling for the “much-needed” rationalisation for several years.
GWPF Director Dr Benny Peiser added: “As the new government under Theresa May focuses on the much more important issues of economic growth, international competitiveness and leaving the European Union, the decision will provide vital savings. It is hoped that the abolition of DECC will also encourage a new emphasis on cost-effective policy-making.
“Moving energy policy to the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should give ministers a fresh impetus to ensure that the costs for consumers and businesses are driven down, not pushed further up.”
WWF-UK also believes the new department can be “a real powerhouse for change, joining up Whitehall teams to progress the resilient, sustainable and low carbon infrastructure that we urgently need”.
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), added creating a new department “opens up the exciting option of an innovation and industry strategy that enables companies in the clean energy supply chain, including steel, to expand and thrive together”.