Campaigners condemn decision to abolish DECC

One of Theresa May’s first moves as prime minister has been to abolish the government department responsible for energy and climate change, in a move condemned by environmental campaigners in the UK and internationally.

As part of a widespread Cabinet reshuffle, May appointed Greg Clark, the former communities and local government secretary, as secretary for a newly created government department of business, energy and industrial strategy.

The department is created from a merger between the departments of business, innovation and skills (BIS) and energy and climate change (DECC).

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only MP in the House of Commons, said: “The decision to shut down DECC is a deeply worrying move from Theresa May. Climate change is the biggest challenge we face, and it must not be an afterthought for the government.

“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.”

However, Clark indicated that he welcomed the responsibility for climate change, saying: “I am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department 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.”

As communities and local government secretary, Clark oversaw the granting of fracking licences in the UK.

On Tuesday, a 2,000 page report from the Committee on Climate Change was published, warning that the impact of climate change on the UK in the coming decades will include heatwaves, flooding, new diseases and pests, rising food prices and increasing rates of migrants from wars and national disasters.

Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth, said: “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.”

The Elders, a group of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela and including Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson, said on Twitter that they “regret” the decision, and that it would make it harder for the UK to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change.

Andrea Leadsom, May’s former rival for the Conservative leadership, is now secretary for the environment, food and rural affairs.

Leadsom stated during her bid for leader that she supported repealing the ban on fox hunting, has voted against the UK setting a target on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and is in favour of selling off national forests.

As part of the reshuffle, May also created a new department for the UK’s exit from the European Union, led by David Davis.

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