Brexit has kept otherwise arcane elements of government policy centre stage over the past year: the customs union anyone? Euratom? But the side effect of the focus on Brexit – and the additional election this year – has been that policymaking in some other areas has gone rather quiet.
On the climate, energy and environment front, we’re still waiting for Defra’s long-promised 25-year plan, a proposed energy efficiency reporting scheme has stayed on the drawing board, and a review of rules around hazardous waste, changes to Environment Agency charging proposals and alterations to the rules around Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment are all behind schedule.
One of the most notable victims of this paralysis has been BEIS’s Emissions Reduction Plan, now called the Clean Growth Plan, which fulfils a statutory requirement on government to outline plans to meet the UK’s carbon targets through the 2020s.
However, this could all be set to change this autumn. The new climate minister Claire Perry has promised the Clean Growth Plan will be out in September. We have Dieter Helm’s energy review due to report back to government in October. There will be a budget after that including statements on the Levy Control Framework, designed to keep the cost to consumers of electricity decarbonisation on track, and the future of carbon pricing. And, a big one, the Industrial Strategy white paper, has been promised by the end of the year. The green paper had one ‘pillar’ dedicated to affordable energy and clean growth. This may not appear in the final version, but there is still an expectation of some announcements in this area.
On top of this, we may have decisions being made on the future of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) – a major plank of the UK’s emissions management – after Brexit, and energy intensive sectors are trying to move forward the Decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency Roadmaps they developed with government a few years ago. BEIS, Ofgem and the energy industry are also working to improve the flexibility of the electricity network.
All of this work is interwoven. There is no point Treasury making a budget announcement on carbon pricing that is undone by the UK leaving the EU ETS in March 2019, equally it needs to heed the results of the Helm energy review before making any decisions on the Levy Control Framework. Cross-government coordination is essential at this point. For industry, it is particularly important that the opportunities for growth articulated in the Industrial Strategy are aligned with, and not contradicted by, measures to cut industrial emissions in the Clean Growth Plan.
This might sound obvious but we already have one example where this coordination isn’t happening. The Industrial Strategy green paper’s clean growth pillar talked about resource efficiency; important in itself and a key consideration in cutting energy consumption. However, the election has reportedly scuppered attempts by BEIS and DEFRA to work together on this. Michael Gove’s key note speech a few weeks ago revealed DEFRA will now be publishing its own Resources Strategy.Hopefully the rest of this autumn and winter’s agenda will be better aligned.