New UK PM scraps climate change department

In one of her first acts as Prime Minister, Theresa May has abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change. Environmentalists are deeply concerned by the move.

In a letter sent by the head of the Department for Energy to staff in his department on Thursday afternoon, Alex Chisholm confirmed that all of the department’s responsibilities have been moved to the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with “immediate effect”. The letter was leaked to Civil Service World.

Climate change campaigners are deeply worried by the move, reports the Independent. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband called the DECC abolition “just plain stupid”, tweeting: “Climate not even mentioned in new department title. Matters because departments shape priorities, shape outcomes.”

John Sauven of Greenpeace UK told the Independent that the move confirms that the new government does not regard climate change as a serious threat. “The voting record and affiliation with climate sceptics of key cabinet appointees are deeply worrying.”

His concerns were echoed by Stephen Devlin, an environmental economist at the New Economics Foundation, who called it a “terrible move by our new Prime Minister”, adding that it appeared to signal “a troubling de-prioritisation of climate change by this government”.

The news came just days after government advisors had warned of the need to take urgent action to prepare the UK for the effects of climate change, including floods, droughts, heatwaves and food shortages.

It also comes on the heels of reports that last month’s Brexit vote could delay EU ratification of the Paris climate agreement. As the Guardian reported just days after the UK vote to leave the European Union, a Eurosceptic and climate-sceptic prime minister could have other priorities than ratifying the landmark accord.

“There is a risk that this could kick EU ratification of the Paris agreement into the long grass,” Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the Guardian at that time.

 

Image credit: Giorgos Vintzileos, flickr/Creative Commons

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