The verdict from many commentators is that in the past Theresa May has focused on her brief in the Home Office, and let other colleagues lead on their roles on climate change. However, when required, she has shown her support by voting for the Climate Change Act, and won the leadership support within her party with the help of many ‘green’ conservatives. Her new ministerial team includes a range of ministers who get the green agenda and how it can help with wider economic policy, including the new Chancellor and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. There has also been much debate on the pros and cons of merging the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department. DECC has helped raise the importance of decarbonising our energy supply and influencing other parts of Government while dealing with a wide range of issues from how to clear your loft quickly for insulation, to nuclear decommissioning, the latter taking up the bulk of its budget. It remains to be seen if the climate change and energy agenda will find further support and resources and ministerial time within the new department. On the positive side at least it wasn’t put into Defra, which has been widely criticised for previous cuts to its climate change team. The ultimate test will be if we see more consistent and confident language and action from across all Government departments on decarbonising our energy supply, growing all of our economy to deliver on low carbon opportunities, and preparing for extreme weather events. Implications for the West Midlands? We are used to integrating climate change into industrial policy. The last West Midlands economic development strategy ‘Connecting to Success’ was widely recognised as the UK’s first low carbon regional economic strategy. This integration is reflected within the new for the West Midlands Combined Authority. Therefore we are exploring with partners how we can help the new Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Meanwhile we hope the incentive to continue to devolve more powers and responsibilities, with less resources to our combined authority continues, especially as the plans for an elected Mayor or what Lord Heseltine calls an ‘elected scapegoat’ continue. In these times of change – the importance of having an independent, cross-sector sustainability body using a wealth of evidence, members and networks to influence longer term change has never been more important. Get involved or get out of the way. Dr Simon Slater, Associate Director of Policy and Partnerships.
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