The former energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, has been appointed business secretary. He replaces Alok Sharma, who moves to work fulltime as president of the COP26 climate conference in November.
Mr Kwarteng, whose appointment was announced this afternoon, is replaced by Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a former international development secretary.
In the past year, Mr Kwarteng has made several public statements indicating a lack of support for fracking.
He told a parliamentary debate in September 2020 that the moratorium on fracking in England
“sends a clear message, not only to the sector but the local communities concerned, that fracking on current evidence will not be taken forward in England.”
“We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely and without inconvenience. This is extremely unlikely to happen as far as I am concerned. There will be no fracking for the foreseeable future”.
In June 2020, he told BBC North West Tonight:
“We had a moratorium on fracking last year and frankly the debate’s moved on. It is not something that we’re looking to do.
“We’ve always said we’d be evidence-backed so if there was a time when the science evidence changed our minds we would be open to that. But for now, fracking is over.”
Opponents of other forms of well stimulation were disappointed in May 2020, when Mr Kwarteng dismissed calls to extend the moratorium. He described acidisation as “a common technique carried out to clean and develop wells” and said the current regulations provided “a high standard of environmental protection.”
Ann-Marie Trevelyan will continue in her role as the UK’s international champion on adaptation and resilience for the COP26 presidency.
Her appointment to COP26 attracted criticism from environmental campaigners when it emerged she had actively opposed windfarms in her Berwick-on-Tweed constituency and in 2015 she retweeted a pro-fracking article.
Also in 2015, she supported government regulations to allow fracking under national parks and some other protected areas.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
In November 2020, she defended her opposition to windfarms to the Huffington Post and said:
“In 2020, technology has progressed to ensure that we can use both onshore wind and importantly offshore wind to help feed our power grid.
“We continue to need base load which will come from gas and nuclear in the near future. As the world moves away from hydrocarbons, the UK is world leading in setting legal frameworks for electric vehicles and other new technologies which will help us meet our Paris agreement commitments.”
Alok Sharma, who has been business secretary and COP president since February 2020, will remain a full member of the cabinet. He will chair the climate action implementation committee to coordinate government action in the run-up to COP26 towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Mr Sharma said:
“The biggest challenge of our time is climate change and we need to work together to deliver a cleaner, greener world and build back better for present and future generations.
“Through the UK’s Presidency of COP26 we have a unique opportunity, working with friends and partners around the world, to deliver on this goal.”
The COP26 will be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted. It will be held in Glasgow and bring together representatives from nearly 200 countries.
The Guardian reported that Mr Kwarteng accepted funding as part of the 2019 general election campaign from fossil fuel investors and advisers. They included:
- IPGL, a holding company with a 40% stake in Cluff Energy Africa, which prospects for oil in west Africa
- Majid Jafar, chief executive of Crescent Petroleum, a privately-held company with oil and gas operations in the Middle East
- Helios Investment Partners, whose portfolio includes Eland Oil and Gas, Impact Oil and Gas, Vivo Energy and Africa Oil Corp