The arrival of Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street has brought with it sweeping changes in the UK’s Cabinet. While the new cabinet has been chosen largely as one that can break the Brexit deadlock, its impact on climate policy is worth exploring.
The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which has the most direct impact on energy and climate policy, is now headed by Andrea Leadsom. She has been vocal in her support of a climate emergency declaration and supports the 2050 net-zero emissions target. A BEIS Energy White Paper previously expected this summer is being delayed until after 31 October (the current Brexit deadline). However, BEIS last week launched several consultations. Among them is a proposal to integrate emissions limits into the Capacity Market. Another explores Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) business models. These could inform the delayed White Paper. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK would leave the EU Emissions Trading System, which has been an important component of carbon pricing in the UK in addition to the domestic Carbon Price Support (CPS). Sajid Javid, the new Chancellor, now sets the country’s carbon levies.
The new Cabinet faces no shortage of pressure to develop ambitious climate policy. Four European countries shattered their all-time temperature records in the past weeks. Meanwhile, climate scientists revised down the timeframe available for meaningful policy action to be taken on climate change. Decisions made in the next 17 months before 2021 are likely to change the state of the global climate in 2050. A new survey of the British public found that 71 per cent of people believe climate change is a more pressing issue than Brexit, 61 per cent feel it does not receive enough attention from the British government, and two-thirds think it should be a top priority for Boris Johnson.
The new Cabinet encouragingly continues to view an innovative and competitive energy market as a cornerstone of the UK’s industrial strategy. However, it must also acknowledge energy and climate policy as inextricably linked and show similar resolve and ambition for the future of the country’s climate policy.