Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has undertaken a huge overhaul of cabinet ministers; officially the biggest clear out of Cabinet without a change of party in power. Boris Johnson oversaw 17 ministers being sacked or resigning from their posts. Both the BEIS Secretary and the Energy Minister have left as part of the new-look Government, which also includes a significant reshuffle at Defra.
Former Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom has replaced Greg Clark as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Theresa Villiers is now Environment Secretary and Energy Minister Claire Perry has relinquished her role and has been named President of the UK’s COP26 climate talks. Additionally, two new junior ministers have been announced at BEIS with Kwasi Kwarteng becoming minister of state for energy and Joe Johnson (the PM’s brother) being appointed as an under-secretary.
Under Greg Clarke significant progress was made in laying the foundations of the UK’s low-carbon agenda following the abolishment of DECC. The approval of the fifth carbon budget, which sets a 57% emissions reduction target between 2028 and 2032, and the recent ratification of the Paris Agreement also contributed to the low-carbon agenda.
Clarke’s replacement, Andrea Leadsom is a former Energy Minister who also served as Environment Secretary in the first year of Theresa May’s Government until the Brexit referendum in 2016. There was some concern about Leadsom when she took on the role of Energy Minister as she had previously been sceptical of climate change. She has since claimed to be “completely persuaded”. Before taking up that role at DECC, Leadsom had spoken against renewable energy targets for the EU and the construction of large-scale wind farms in the UK. She was also responsible for the decision in 2015 to end taxpayer-funded subsidies for onshore wind farms This was announced a year earlier than planned and meant such facilities were excluded from of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. Leadsom is however a strong campaigner against plastics and launched the consultation on banning microbeads. She has voiced her intention to continue her work in this field. Leadsom is also well known to be pro-fracking and has spoken in Parliament about the opportunity that shale gas exploration presents and has been vocal about the environmental legislative outlook post-Brexit as Environment Secretary.
Theresa Villiers has taken over from Michael Gove as UK Environment Secretary. She appears to be an advocate for climate action, strong environmental policies and low-carbon initiatives. Villiers also appears to be in favour of fracking, after previously voting against a ban on shale gas exploration and issuing a statement on her website which sought to allay concerns about the practice. Villiers has also endorsed specific environmental projects, including the low-carbon lifestyle project, One Home. In the lead up to Brexit, the new faces at the helm of the Government’s environmental departments will be under increased pressure to reassure the country and wider global community of the UK’s continued commitment to be a leading light in the fight against climate change. With the UK seeking to host the COP 26 summit in November 2020, the government will be under increased scrutiny to demonstrate this commitment to environmental policies as the UK exits the European Union. We can only watch this space to see if they can rise to the challenge.