Whisper it, but was this a pretty good reshuffle for the net zero agenda and the wider green economy?
There was continuity at the top of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department of Transportation and the COP26 team, where Kwasi Kwarteng, Grant Shapps and Alok Sharma all face a dreadful fall consisting of to turn ambitious net zero strategies into political action and diplomatic breakthroughs.
At Defra, George Eustice will continue to question the pace and effectiveness of the long-awaited green agriculture subsidy reforms and the revamped waste and resources strategy. But with the broad framework of ambitious reforms launched by Michael Gove still in place, there is probably more to be gained from letting Eustice finish the job than risking another change of leadership.
Meanwhile, the hope is that Gove will now bring his reformist zeal and “shy green” sensitivities to a housing case that has long lagged behind the climate agenda. It is clear that Gove has the potential to link its support for the net zero transition and its love of the natural world to tackle the doldrums of housing planning and policy, hold local authorities’ climate plans accountable, and block bluntly. proposals for new coal mines.
At the Department of International Trade, there is a similar hope that Anne-Marie Trevelyan can apply her recent experience with the clean energy revolution to a trade case where Liz Truss was guilty of putting environmental concerns aside.
With Greg Hands moving in the opposite direction to take on Trevelyan’s former role as Energy Minister, it looks like the crucial energy dossier has been handed over to an MP known for his low-profile competence and a interest in accelerating the net zero transition. However, green economy insiders hope he will now have time to get a handle on a complex issue. As Tim Lord of the Tony Blair Institute noted, there are now four energy ministers since the goal of net zero was legally adopted just over two years ago.
Perhaps the biggest boost to the net zero program, however, came with the return to government of Simon Clarke, who was appointed chief secretary to the treasury and won a cabinet seat. Clarke was a strong supporter of the net zero program and the crucial role it can play in “leveling” the economy long before both were in fashion. He is a wise operator who has been an integral part of the expansion of the Conservative Green Caucus. After leading the remarkably successful parliamentary campaign to get the net zero target on the law book, he will now advocate for a more ambitious approach to decarbonizing the heart of the department which has arguably been the biggest obstacle. bolder climate action over the past decade.
It’s an open secret that there has been tension between number 10 and number 11 over the pace and direction of the net zero transition. Clarke’s appointment suggests the PM is serious about going faster with his climate and leveling the schedules.
That said, challenges and concerns remain. In Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Priti Patel, three of the state’s big offices are occupied by ambitious politicians who have yet to convince anyone that they truly understand the scale of the climate threat or the green economic opportunity. . There are currently no Green Conservatives among the favorites to replace the PM when the time comes – far from it.
Meanwhile, the appointment of Nadine Dorries and the promotion of Truss suggest that the government is still happy to stoke the fires of the culture war and nurture free market ideologies that could further incinerate its vision of a green economy and leveled. Add the very real potential of a winter energy crisis to coincide with an angry diplomatic standoff at COP26 fueled by British and American submarines in China, and the new Green Team could yet find itself quickly overwhelmed by the events of this. fall.
Overall, the Prime Minister’s team of green ministers appear stronger than they were earlier this week, and No.10 has sent a pretty clear signal that he takes his environmental and economic priorities seriously to fall and beyond. However, this does not mean that important and necessary progress is now guaranteed. What is needed – what has always been needed – is the ambitious and daring leadership of number 10 to transform its welcome rhetoric into irreversible and achievable climate policies and properly funded green stimulus and skills programs that can unlock the next step in the net zero transition. That and a truly cohesive and cohesive approach which means that national trade, diplomatic and energy and economic strategies all work in service of the zero net mission, not against it.
Forget the whispers, Boris Johnson should shout his government’s green vision at every opportunity.