DECC as a Parrot?

My prediction is that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will not survive to the end of the forthcoming 5-year parliament.

The people most upset by yesterday’s election result – at least according to my Twitter feed – were the professional pollsters and forecasters – not least many prominent academic political scientists – who universally predicted that the election result would be far closer than it eventually turned out.

Roger Pielke Jr counselled humility

In solidarity with my (probably soon to be former*) colleagues – who are among the cleverest and nicest people I know – I’m going to put my own prediction into the ring.

For what it’s worth (and based entirely on gut feeling) I don’t think the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will survive to the end of the forthcoming 5-year parliament. I predict that its functions will be returned to their original departments (out of which DECC was carved in 2008). Energy will go back to Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Climate Change will go to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

After all, DEFRA still keeps responsibility for adaptation to climate change, while DECC looks after mitigation (monitoring and reducing GHG emissions). BIS has responsibility for the Met Office. So under the first Conservative Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (the Liberal Democrats held that post under the Coalition) – and probably with cost-savings as justification – I predict that the three-way responsibility will be reduced to two, and DECC will be disbanded.

[sub-prediction: a smart move would be to offer (junior) ministerial responsibility for climate change to Caroline Lucas (the Green Party’s only MP).]

The Conservative manifesto affirms its commitment to the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris at the end of 2015 so I don’t see any changes happening until after that event. But an inconclusive result of that meeting would strengthen my prediction. The manifesto also explicitly supports the Climate Change Act, so I’m making no predictions about that at the moment.

“We will push for a strong global climate deal later this year – one that keeps the goal of limiting global warming to two-degrees firmly in reach. At home, we will continue to support the UK Climate Change Act. We will cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible, and will not support additional distorting and expensive power sector targets.”

Interestingly the Tory manifesto splits its (brief) discussions of climate change between ‘Environment’ and ‘Energy’ (with a mention under foreign aid), supporting my view that those topics don’t sit naturally together.

So there ends my first venture into political prediction. I expect it will be as successful as those of yesterday’s forecasters.

P.S. Thanks to Jonathan Jones (@nmrqip) for suggesting the title for this post!

* After September, I will no longer be associated with the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford as my fixed-term post comes to an end. [Update (Sept 2015): the Department has kindly extended my Associate Membership to 2018.]

(Updated to add a plug for my new book, co-authored with Christopher Hood!)

This post has been picked up at Bishop Hill, with more discussion and another good title!

1 thought on “DECC as a Parrot?

  1. Good prediction Ruth. By which I mean not that it is certain to come to pass but that it’s a fine idea which you’ve made more likely to come to pass by articulating it.

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