The new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson
Green campaigners are concerned over the appointment of Owen Paterson as Environment Secretary after Caroline Spelman lost out in today’s Cabinet reshuffle.
Former Northern Ireland Secretary, Paterson is a controversial choice to take the post as head of Defra, because of his previous voiced support for shale gas and the expansion of British airports.
Conservative Home, a Tory support group, reported that Paterson set out a three-point plan this summer, at a cabinet meeting, which included proposals to end all energy subsidies, fast-track the exploitation of shale gas and review airport expansion policy.
Former head of the green party as of yesterday, Caroline Lucas tweeted – “OMG New Env sec suggested ending all energy subsidies & fast-tracking shale gas back in May.”
Paterson has not endeared himself to renewable energy advocates in the past, describing wind farms as a “massive waste of consumers’ money,” on his North Shropshire constituency website.
Friends of the Earth spokesman Andrew Piddleton told edie that they would have to wait and see if the new Secretary would fight their corner, but expressed concerned over possible future fracking in the UK.
He said: “We are concerned about the impact of fracking locally and more importantly in terms of climate change. Politicians say all sorts of things when they are not in office and it is important that although the figures change, the politics do not.
“Whether or not people want fracking on their doorstep is a debate that still needs to be had.”
Waste lobby group the Environmental Services Association (ESA) cautiously welcomed the appointment, and called on the new Secretary to help develop tax policies to drive waste up the hierarchy. It also wants help on reforming public procurement to drive demand for recycled content in products.
The removal of Transport Secretary Justine Greening has also raised concerns for environmental lobbyists as it has been seen by some as a signal that a U-turn over a third runway at Heathrow may be gathering pace.
Greening had campaigned strongly against the expansion at Heathrow as it would have impacted her constituents in Putney, South West London.
She lasted just 10 months as Transport Secretary and many consider this to be a result of her refusing to budge after a succession of senior Conservative ministers called on the Prime Minister to rethink his opposition to a third runway.
A staunch critic of the plans, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said in a statement, “there can be only one reason to move her (Ms Greening) – and that is to expand Heathrow Airport.”