Conservative MP takes helm of in crunch year with Paris climate summit and clean energy debates looming
By Alex Pashley
Amber Rudd was made secretary of state for energy and climate change today, as Prime Minister David Cameron filled cabinet posts in his new look Tory majority government.
Rudd, 51, a former financial journalist and investment banker, replaces Liberal Democrat Ed Davey as head of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, making her Britain’s top representative at UN sponsored climate talks.
Davey’s three-year leadership of DECC ended in last Thursday’s election, failing to win re-election as MP for Kingston and Surbiton while his party lost power. Liz Truss was re-appointed environment secretary.
The appointment of Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, was seen as a signal of the Government’s backing of climate science, analysts said, while fellow party members stood out her green credentials.
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said it “shows that the Conservative Party leadership retains its commitment to policies based on sound climate science.”
— Greg Barker (@GregBarkerUK) May 11, 2015
Amber Rudd in DECC – that is great, great news. Big congrats @AmberRuddhr
— Zac Goldsmith (@ZacGoldsmith) May 11, 2015
“Amber Rudd has already acknowledged the need to boost renewables and increase investment in energy efficiency – and importantly she recognises the devastating impact that climate change will have without action,” said Simon Bullock at Friends of the Earth.
Rudd joined the department last July as a junior minister, having previously worked as private secretary for Chancellor George Osborne.
Her appointment over more hardline Tory candidates for the top post will be of relief to campaigners and environmentalists, given her unequivocal commitment to a UN climate deal and support for green investment.
In a Business Green interview last year, she said: “I don’t think you could get a cigarette paper between me and Labour on our commitment to getting a deal in Paris. We are all completely committed to it, whatever the outcome.”
— DECC (@DECCgovuk) May 11, 2015
But Rudd will face challenges — having to implement the Tories’ manifesto pledge to curb the growth of onshore wind farms, broker negotiations over a controversial nuclear power plant, and draw up the government’s fifth carbon budget to run through the next decade.
She will also face calls to boost fracking, a policy championed by her party as a way to lower energy bills and re-industrialise the North of England.
Former environment minister and climate sceptic Owen Paterson MP said yesterday Tory-controlled DECC was a “really, really great opportunity” to undo the “disastrous long term energy policy led by the Liberal Democrats where there was a real problem the lights might go out.”
In February visit to Newcastle, Rudd called fracking a “positive thing” that could spur jobs “as long as we do it extremely safely and reassure communities that that’s the case”.
At the last round of UN climate talks in Lima, Rudd had planned on making a high profile appearance, visiting a melting glacier in the Andes before representing the UK in negotiations. But at the eleventh hour senior Tories puller her trip, leaving Ed Davey to attend alone.
Her attendance at the Paris conference however this December, where almost 200 nations are expected to sign a global climate pact, should now be more assured.