Alok Sharma has been named Secretary of State for BEIS, as well as Minister for COP26.
The new appointments means that Mr Sharma MP will make critical decisions on UK infrastructure that will shape the trajectory towards meeting the country's carbon reduction obligations.
Sharma has a background in finance, and some have linked his appointment to the Government acknowledgement that if the UK - and the rest of the world - is to meet its climate targets and deliver much needed infrastructure, sound economic solutions and initiatives need to be agreed.
"Climate change is one of the greatest challenges the world is facing." Alok Sharma MP
Sharma has stated that “climate change is one of the greatest challenges the world is facing” and in early 2019, launched a new International Development Infrastructure Commission, with the ambition to rapidly speed up investment into sustainable infrastructure across the globe. He also launched a UK aid package in September 2019 aimed at protecting around a billion people in developing nations from natural disasters and extreme weather events driven by climate change.
However, as noted in edie's useful summary, Sharma has not always been a clear supporter of climate change initiatives and policies. Whilst he has highlighted the preservation of biodiversity and reforestation and mobilising private sector investment as ways to combat climate change in various speeches, he has predominantly voted against climate change legislation. In 2016, he voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry. In 2019, he voted against the Green Industrial Revolution “Programme for the Many”.
TheyWorkForYou claimed that Sharma “generally voted against measures to prevent climate change”. The Guardian’s Polluters project, which scores MPs on a range of key votes found that he only voted positively on two out of 13 climate-related votes.
What does this mean for the renewables projects currently stuck in the system with BEIS, and the numerous energy schemes coming down the line? Will Mr Sharma's appointment give some clarity and certainty with which these critical decisions can be made? Does the dual appointment to SOS and Minister for COP26 indicate a steer from Number 10 on the expectations placed on Sharma to deliver against the UK - and the world's - carbon reduction targets? Will Sharma's previous reticence to support UK climate friendly initiatives hamper progress?
Industry will be keen to see how Sharma settles into his new roles over coming months.