Tuesday 2nd September 2014                 Change text size:

Energy and environment departments dealt new faces in cabinet reshuffle



Photo: Seth Anderson via Flickr

Owen Paterson has replaced Caroline Spelman as secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, in the coalition government’s first notable reshuffle yesterday.

Spelman had held the post for just short of 28 months, and in that time, had displayed a complete commitment and urgency to tackling climate change – a trait that her successor, Paterson, has not.

Andrew Grice in The Independent even describes Paterson as “a right-wing climate change sceptic who opposes wind farms”, which if true, is deeply concerning.

Opinions that the new environment secretary does hold, though, include a support of badger culling and an opposition to renewable energy, as outlined by The Guardian’s Damian Carrington.

An article on the Conservative Home blog from May 2012 sketched out then-Northern Ireland secretary Paterson’s “three point action plan for economic growth”, which included ending all energy subsidies.

And adding to the worry, his third point in the list was an “urgent review of airport policy to ensure Britain gets its full share of global trade” – suggesting that the new environment secretary might help push forward plans for a third runway at Heathrow, especially since transport secretary Justine Greening – one of the staunchest opponents to such plans – has also lost her job in the reshuffle.

Justine Greening is a victim of intense aviation lobbying over airport expansion – and an economic argument that simply doesn’t add up”, commented Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins about her departure.

She’s been shunted out of her transport job because of her opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.

We don’t need more airports or runways in the south east – they would have a devastating impact on local communities and the environment and undermine UK action on climate change.”

Paterson also called wind farms a “massive waste of consumers’ money” in a piece on his official website – so all in all not the best start for the new environment secretary.

Elsewhere in the cabinet, Charles Hendry has lost his position as minister of state for energy and climate change, and is to be replaced by John Hayes, the former further education, skills and lifelong learning minister.

Hayes’ departure was met with almost wholly positive memories of his time working in the education sector, and so it’s hoped he can continue his good work when uprooting and moving to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Hendry was regarded as one of the most likable members of the cabinet, and laid out the government’s commitment to renewable energy in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s recent Guide to Limitless Clean Energy.

Hayes has experience in farming, after having served on the Agriculture Select Committee and taken up a role of shadow minister for agriculture, fisheries and food, but there is no evidence of professional experience in energy or climate change.

Further reading:

Heathrow’s third runway: costly, unnecessary and distracting

UK economy to get £25bn boost through renewables as Lib Dems stand firm

Energy bill claims to provide “secure, clean and affordable electricity”

Budget statement: what about the environment?

An unsustainable budget


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