Following last month’s news that the new prime minister, Theresa May, decided to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), it would be easy to forgive campaigners for feeling worried about environmental protection in the UK.
In one of her first acts as the head of government, climate change responsibilities were moved to a new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Last week the full list of BEIS ministers was confirmed. Among them was Nick Hurd, appointed minister of state for climate change and industry.
In this role, Mr Hurd now faces a major challenge, with responsibilities for national and international climate change, carbon budgets, climate science and innovation and the green economy.
ClientEarth has singled out three ways in which Mr Hurd can re-establish the UK as a leader on climate change. Thanks to our Climate Change Act, we were the first nation to put into law legally-binding emissions targets. Now, he must continue this process with the following priorities:
- The minister needs to take domestic action on the Paris Agreement. Government must begin real meaningful steps to realign its carbon cutting ambition with international climate pledges, turning them into UK law.
- The minister must restore the confidence of industry – and the wider public – in the government’s commitment to its 2050 climate change target. Mr Hurd needs to develop a practical plan to meet the fifth carbon budget. At the same time, he must seek to address the growing policy gap between the fourth carbon budget and government plans to meet it.
- The minister must push for climate change to be central across all government departments, not just his own. This task in particular may prove difficult given that BEIS itself has a number of competing high-profile areas including energy, small business and even universities.
In the face of the abolition of DECC, the appointment of Mr Hurd as the climate change and industry minister may be a cause for hope. As a former member of the environmental audit committee and the climate change bill committee, Mr Hurd is well aware of the implications of climate change and the need to act quickly.
The new minister must now lead on putting in motion a credible carbon plan to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. This would constitute real and essential progress in the UK’s efforts to reduce emissions, protecting the people and the planet.
Photo by garryknight