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Net zero on agenda as PM creates four departments

Deniz Huseyin
23 February 2023


Prime minister Rishi Sunak has created four new departments, including one focused on energy and net zero.

This means that the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has effectively been split into three, with a new emphasis on securing the low-carbon mixed portfolio of energy generation.

The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will seek to ensure the UK is on track to meet carbon budgets and net zero commitments.

The department will aim to ensure the security of energy supply this winter, next winter and in the longer-term – in the hope of bringing down energy bills and reducing inflation. 

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary of State is Grant Shapps, who was transport secretary from 2019 to 2022, home secretary during the final six days of Liz Truss’s premiership and BEIS secretary from October 2022 to February 2023.

A dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will seek to “optimise” public R&D investment to support areas of relative UK strength and increase the level of private R&D, led by Michelle Donelan, previously Digital, Culture, Media and Sport secretary since September 2022.

The new Department for Business and Trade’s remit includes: delivering economic growth opportunities across the economy; backing business by improving access to finance and delivering a pro-enterprise regulatory system. It will be led by Kemi Badenoch MP, who remains as President of the Board of Trade, and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Meanwhile, a “streamlined and refocused” Department for Culture, Media and Sport will be headed by Lucy Frazer, who was previously Minister of State in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities from 26 October 2022 to 7 February 2023. 

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “It is good that the prime minister has signalled his commitment to delivering net zero through the creation of the new department, and it shows that MPs on the right of the Conservative Party have failed to win the argument for weakening climate policy.”

 He added: “However, a more important question is whether the new department will be able to persuade other departments and the Treasury to accelerate action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions across the economy outside the energy sector.”

Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), said: “We hope this reshuffle heralds the Government’s intention to respond with all possible speed to the Skidmore Review and the publication of the UK's updated net-zero strategy.

“Emphasis should be on enabling faster progress on the transition to a sustainable future. The government must make sure we have a workforce equipped with the necessary green skills to build and adapt to a greener economy.”

Director of operations for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, Marie-Claude Hemming, said: “The prime minister’s creation of a dedicated department for energy will, if accompanied by sufficient levels of investment, drive the UK’s mission to deliver a clean energy future.

“This reorganisation in no way reflects on the work of BEIS, which has led a truly world-leading response to the generational challenge of Covid-19 in recent years.

“Instead, it offers the opportunity to turbo-charge the UK’s dash for green growth in light of the changing face of the energy sector, not least due to recent spikes in energy costs caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

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