Amber Rudd has been named as the new Energy Secretary, replacing Lib Dem Ed Davey who saw his 7,000 majority wiped out on Thursday night. The appointment signals the retention of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, contradicting rumours that it might be dismantled by the new Conservative government.
Climate realists hoping for a move to saner energy policy under the new minister may be sorely disappointed however; Rudd, a former financial journalist and investment banker who served as a minister under Davey, has previously stated her commitment to the climate change agenda which she justifies as a product of her Conservatism.
Last year she told Business Green “The first world leader to speak about climate change at the UN was Margaret Thatcher and she of course was a scientist and the science is completely compelling. If I’m challenged on it by any of my own party – although I haven’t been – I would say ‘I’m a Thatcherite – aren’t you?'”
Last week, she again invoked the Conservative party’s spiritual leader, writing in the same publication “To those who still say that the Conservatives do not take tackling climate change seriously, let me remind them that it was Margaret Thatcher who was the first ever world leader to sound the alarm on taking action on global warming at the UN in 1989.”
As the Conservatives battled for supremacy in the run up to polling day she made a green pitch to voters, promising to continue their commitment, first stated in 2010, to lead the greenest government ever.
“Under David Cameron, renewable electricity capacity has tripled,” she proclaimed, continuing: “We have put in place a new framework to decarbonise Britain’s energy market and we have delivered our manifesto commitment to create the world’s first ever Green Investment Bank (GIB).
“One million homes have benefited from energy efficiency measures since 2010 – that’s a million households that will now be permanently warmer for less. Half a million homes have installed solar PV and we have backed the first new nuclear plant in 20 years, placed a minimum price on carbon, put aside £1bn for carbon capture and storage and, through the £3.9bn we are contributing to the International Climate Fund, we are helping developing nations around the world tackle climate change.”
Amongst Rudd’s ambitions going forward are promises to “continue to support the UK Climate Change Act,” an ongoing determination to cut emissions, and investment in offshore wind and other renewables.
Rudd will also be tasked with bringing an end to the subsidisation of onshore wind, a policy which has proved extremely unpopular in the shires where Conservatives voters are fed up with living with wind farms on their doorsteps. She has also previously stated her support for shale gas drilling. At the opening of a renewable energy plant at the Nestle factory in Newcastle’s Fawdon, she said: “I think fracking is a positive thing to have in the UK, as long as we can do it extremely safely and reassure communities that that’s the case, and I think we can.”
But she has been quick to downplay any possibility that there is clear blue water between the Conservatives and their opponents when it comes to the climate change agenda, including the UN’s Paris Summit on the horizon later this year, saying “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. Everyone is doing what they can.”