Time to reinstate DECC?

Former Secretary of State for Energy Sir Ed Davey has dismissed the idea of recreating the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

His rebuttal follows in the wake of rumours that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is about to reverse the decision taken by his predecessor Theresa May in July 2016 to abolish DECC, as part of a post-election shakeup of Whitehall.

The majority of the functions of DECC – which was established in 2008 and led by Davey between 2012-2015 – have been transferred to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

But Johnson is believed to be considering the defunct department’s reinstatement in order to ensure the UK more effectively works towards meeting its legally binding commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Davey, who is acting co-leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that DECC should not be resurrected in its previous form, and that he favoured a stronger alternative that would have greater powers to co-ordinate policymaking in areas away from energy such as housing and transport.

Speaking at the Institute for Government on January 28, he said: “We need a much stronger department which I would prefer to call the Department for Net Zero. If we’re going for go for it [net zero by 2050], which we must, then we have to go further and faster than we’ve done ever before.

“DECC was a great initiative and proposal and did some fantastic things, but as Secretary of State there for three years I knew that it didn’t have all the powers that it needed. Whether it was adaption, parts of housing and transport or financing, then it just needed more.”

He added: “If we’re serious about this you’ve got to get a department, focus, accountability and profile, and that really does mean having a cabinet minister with all those powers. If you’re going to galvanise Whitehall and the amazing civil servants who serve our country so well, and through them the rest of the public and private sector, then I think you need something much stronger [than DECC].”