• Energy and climate change department abolished in overhaul
  • Scottish lawmaker says scrapping DECC heightens uncertainty

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May named Greg Clark to head up a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy after combining the remits of two previous government departments.

The new ministry will wrap together the functions previously carried out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It shows May intends to deliver on a leadership speech she made on Monday in which she promised “a proper industrial strategy to get the whole economy firing.”

The scrapping of the energy and climate change department may heighten uncertainty among investors at a time when the U.K. is trying to phase out all its coal-fired power plants while encouraging new nuclear and gas-fired plants and renewable energy. The U.K. economy as a whole has been plunged into turmoil following the country’s vote to leave the European Union last month.

“The immediate impact of the vote to leave has been to amplify uncertainty at a time when major investment is needed to deliver affordable, clean and secure energy,” Angus MacNeil, the Scottish National Party lawmaker who chairs the parliamentary committee charged with scrutinizing the energy and climate change department, said in an e-mailed statement.

Questions Raised

He said DECC’s disappearance raises questions including “which department will take responsibility for the energy and climate aspects of negotiations to leave the EU? Who will champion decarbonization in cabinet? Who will drive innovation in the energy sector?

Even so, RenewableUK, the main clean energy lobby group, said it was “looking forward to working supportively with Mr. Clark” and welcomed the “clarity” on the make-up of May’s new administration. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said Clark was an “excellent” appointment.

“He understands climate change, and has written influential papers on the benefits of Britain developing a low-carbon economy,” ECIU Director Richard Black said in a statement. “Importantly, he sees that economic growth and tackling climate change are bedfellows not opponents –- and he now has the opportunity to align British industry, energy and climate policy in a way that’s never been done before.”

Clark, 48, was previously the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. When the Conservatives were in opposition, he was their energy and climate change spokesman and would have moved to that department in government had the Tories not gone into coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who took control of the ministry.

An economics graduate from the University of Cambridge, he entered Parliament in 2005, after previously working as a policy officer for the Conservatives, a commercial official at the British Broadcasting Corp. and a parliamentary aide.

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