Energy and climate change policy rolled into a beefed up business department

Prime minister Theresa May’s decision to shut the department for energy and climate change (DECC) and roll its functions into a beefed up business department has been panned by green campaigners.

Friends of the Earth described the decision as “shocking news”, adding: “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.”

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was the first secretary of state at DECC from 2008 to 2010, called the move “just plain stupid”. He tweeted: “Climate not even mentioned in new dept. title. Matters because depts shape priorities shape outcomes.”

The WWF seemed less concerned: “The new department for business, energy, and industrial strategy can be a real powerhouse for change, joining up Whitehall teams to progress the resilient, sustainable, and low carbon infrastructure that we urgently need.”

But Greenpeace bemoaned the loss of ‘climate change’ from the department’s name: “Although, some might say, ‘What’s in a name?’ there is a very real worry that the progress made on tackling climate change could be relegated to the bottom of the in tray. Business, energy and industrial strategy must have green innovation and job creation at its heart.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “The newly created Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy represents a golden opportunity to put sustainable business at the heart of jobs and prosperity.

“However, the loss of a dedicated climate change department has the potential to send the wrong signal to the international community.  The Government needs to reconfirm its commitment to the Paris Agreement at the earliest opportunity.”

The move was rumoured to be partly prompted by the need to accommodate the newly-created Brexit department - to be led by David Davis - which may move to the DECC’s vacated headquarters at 3 Whitehall, although this has not been confirmed.

Greg Clark, the former communities secretary, who is known to take green issues seriously, will lead the newly-created department for business, energy and industrial strategy.

Commenting on his appointment, Clark said: “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.”