Following the Brexit vote and Theresa May’s new Premiership, DECC has been axed and Hinkley C is being ‘reviewed.’ What other fallout is coming from recent political change?

A new Prime Minister

Theresa May has taken power. What’s her relationship with low carbon going to achieve?

For a start, the 5th Carbon Budget made it through the previous Parliament by a nose. But it is May’s Government that must reveal a detailed Emissions Reduction Plan by the end of the year, to actually hit the targets laid down.

Business Green suggests that whilst it is only part of the solution, the UK’s growing low carbon economy can play an important role in bringing much needed investment to North East regions, and help deliver Theresa May’s vision of Britain as “country that works for everyone”.

Low carbon could help Britain redefine its new global business position. May wants a more inclusive country, with more jobs. Low carbon offers these in abundance, and many world players have massive vested interest in low carbon, which could ease trade deals post Brexit.

Essentially, May faces challenges which low carbon can help solve. The sector should get lobbying now, early in May’s Premiership, to make sure low carbon makes the very most out of Brexit and the new Government the vote catalysed.

Certain commentators are hoping that May’s merger of DECC into DBEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) signals a positive approach to tackling climate change. Rather than being addressed in isolation, an explanatory note from the government says, “This merger will enable a whole-economy approach to delivering our climate change ambitions, effectively balancing the priorities of growth and carbon reduction.”

 

The Huffington Post argued the change could be, ‘A bold and positive statement that the importance of addressing climate change has become so well integrated into the structure of modern government across all departments, that a specific department of climate change has become superfluous.’

Hinkley C

Just days ago, Theresa May put Hinkley on hold. The Guardian says she is concerned about the security implications of a planned Chinese investment in Hinkley and has delayed giving the £18bn project the green light.

What could the £18bn, redirected, do for the UK’s energy reduction and energy management sectors?

Since then, China has warned Britain that it cannot risk driving away Chinese investors. Theresa May has long had “objections” to a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point during the coalition, the then Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable has told the BBC.

“Certainly when we were in government Theresa May was, I think, quite clear she was unhappy about the rather gung-ho approach to Chinese investment that we had – and that George Osborne in particular was promoting – and as I recall raised objections to Hinkley at that time,”

Vince Cable

May’s Government will now review the plans and make a final decision in the autumn. She could simply be looking to pressurise France into pushing the EU into terms more favourable to the UK on Brexit. Then, France would get Hinkley in return. That is, if EDF even truly wants it.

She might genuinely want time to check the project’s credentials. But, equally likely is that the new Government secretly hoped EDF would pull the plug. The company simply can’t afford to build Hinkley. It didn’t back out of the plans; will it fall to May to do so herself?

Either way, it’s an added complication to an already hectic political schedule. More than ever, low carbon must be alert to top level politics. And stand ready to fight at all times.

Image: jgolby / Shutterstock.com
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