Climate change gains a seat in the Cabinet

The government reshuffle created a new Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which is to be headed up by Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown confirmed last week. Hilary Benn retains his position at a much slimmed down Environment Department (DEFRA)

The decision to merge energy and climate policy into one department has been widely praised by both green groups, such as Green Alliance and Greenpeace, and business groups, such as the Confederation of Business and Industry and the National Farmers Union. Industry and environmentalists have long called for greater cohesion between the two briefs after years of tension between the ministries leading them.

Former business secretary John Hutton - who has come under severe criticism for his support of the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station – has been moved to the Ministry of Defence. Ed Miliband’s review of the controversial plant will be seen as the first test of DECC’s credibility.

The detailed implications of the new department are still being worked through. DEFRA has kept many of its climate-related portfolio including waste, national climate change adaptation and its sustainable consumption and production brief. DECC will lead on the Climate Change Bill, emissions trading and international negotiations. However, junior ministerial positions in the new department have also yet to be announced.

Three new ministers now join DEFRA. Jane Kennedy joins the department as minister for farming and environment. Phil Hunt becomes minister for sustainable development, climate change adaptation and air quality. Huw Irranca-Davies has been appointed minister for natural and marine environment, wildlife and rural affairs.

Peter Mandleson now heads up the Business Department (BERR). Former DEFRA minister Ian Pearson will lead on BERR’s sustainable development and regulation responsibilities, including the regulation of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

Former Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett also regains a ministerial appointment. She has joins the Department of Communities and Local Government as minister of housing, replacing Caroline Flint.