Energy minister Wheelhouse demands climate change talks with PM

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse is demanding urgent talks with the UK Government following Theresa May's decision to axe the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Whitehall.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse is seeking urgent talks about the scrapping of his equivalent role south of the Border. Photograph: Toby Williams

The new Prime Minister’s reshuffle has seen the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) merged with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to create a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department.

Environment campaigners have expressed concern that the change suggests tackling climate change will no longer be a priority for the UK Government.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raised the issue directly with the new Prime Minister when they met in Edinburgh last week and Wheelhouse has now pledged to take the issue further.

Wheelhouse said he was looking forward to meeting Greg Clark, the UK’s new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pointing out that he had championed the benefits of a low-carbon economy.

“Mr Clark now has the opportunity to implement his vision by working with us to build on the remarkable progress already made in Scotland,” Wheelhouse said.

“But we’ll also be seeking assurances that the UK government will back our efforts to create jobs and maximise benefits from the renewable energy sector, secure electricity supplies for everyone in these islands, and cut carbon emissions.”

Wheelhouse also intends to highlight the challenges facing the oil and gas sector, which will remain of critical importance to Scotland during its transition to a low- carbon economy.

He added: “In addition to raising concerns about the UK government’s climate change ambitions, the move to scrap DECC has also raised questions in terms of Westminster’s attitude to the North Sea oil and gas industry.

“The sector is attempting to recover from one of its most difficult ever periods, and needs assurances that the UK government is serious about doing all that it can to support the industry and the jobs it supports. The First Minister has already raised the issue of the decision to axe DECC directly with the new Prime Minister, but I want to take that dialogue further and am seeking urgent talks with UK ministers to outline our concerns.”

The Scottish Government has committed to introduce a new climate change bill which will set a target to reduce emissions by more than 50 per cent by 2020.

Scottish ministers want to secure UK government support for pumped storage hydro schemes, onshore and offshore wind, as well as interconnectors between Scotland’s island communities.

The Scottish Government has had a long-standing commitment to developing renewable energy. However, the increasing number of wind farms, which have sprung up over Scotland have proved contentions with many arguing that they are inefficient and spoil the Scotland’s landscape.

A Downing Street spokesman said climate change would be looked after by the “beefed up” business and energy department.