Collaborating with other nations to combat climate change and the release of a new Energy Bill to increase energy security in the UK were among the key announcements in the first all-Conservative Queen’s Speech since 1996.
In the presence of MPs, peers and other dignitaries in the House of Lords, Queen Elizabeth II today (27 May) set out the government’s legislative plans for the year ahead, marking the official State Opening of Parliament.
The Queen gave just two mentions of energy and the environment in her 10-minute speech, to the disappointment of green groups and sustainability professionals alike.
First, she said “measures will be introduced to increase energy security,” and later she stated that the new Tory Government “will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change – including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year.”
On energy security, the Conservatives have issued a new Energy Bill which aims to “ensure there will be affordable and reliable energy for businesses and families.”
The Energy Bill – just one of a 28-Bill package announced today – proposes to formally establish the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) – an independent regulator “charged with the asset stewardship and regulation of domestic oil and gas recovery”.
The new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, would see her existing regulatory powers transfered to this new OGA, but her regulatory functions in relation to the environment would not be transferred.
On renewable energy, the Energy Bill also contains a clause handing local authorities “consenting power” for all onshore wind applications.
However, the impact of such a change may be negligible, given that local authorities already have these powers for wind farms below 50MW – there are just two operational wind farms in England with more than 50MW capacity, and the changes are expected to affect only one planning application.
The full Energy Bill document goes on to state that the commitment to end new subsidy for onshore wind farms – as reiterated by Rudd earlier this month – will be delivered separately, and DECC will be announcing measures to deliver this soon.
The background notes to the Queen’s speech elaborated: “A global deal is the only way we can deliver the scale of action required.
“The most cost effective and competitive way to achieve this is an international, legally binding, rules based agreement covering every country.”
The Government document argued that a global deal is strongly in the UK’s interest because it will “create new opportunities for our low carbon industries.”
It also claimed that the UK needed to avert the direct threats of climate change – such as floods and heatwaves – as well as the indirect threats such as “rising costs and regional instability”.
The document continued: “There is widespread support from business, NGOs and the wider public both in the UK here and internationally.”