Conservatives CB

With all 650 seats having declared their election
results, the Conservatives have secured 331 seats, five more than
they needed to form a majority in the House of Commons and return
David Cameron to Downing Street.

The outcome defies expectations of a hung parliament
and sees the UK return to single-party government after five years
of Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition. The junior coalition partner
had, under Ed Davey and Chris Huhne, held the secretary of state
position at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
since 2010.

The result means the UK is set for an in-out
referendum on EU membership in 2017, or even sooner. Cameron wants
to renegotiate the terms of membership and has promised to campaign
for the UK to stay within the EU if he is successful. European
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has
ruled out EU treaty changes
before November 2019.

The other big story of the election has been the
Scottish National Party’s almost total victory north of the border,
winning all but three seats.

Carbon Brief brings you a summary of the key
Conservative manifesto pledges on climate and energy plus reactions
and comments, which we will add to as the day progresses.

Climate and energy pledges

The top line on the Conservative approach to climate
and energy issues is that the party will stick to the UK’s
overarching carbon targets, while focusing on minimising costs.
We’ve summarised some key messages from the Tory
in this graphic:

The manifesto

“We will cut emissions
as cost-effectively as possible, and will not support additional
distorting and expensive power sector targets.”

This means a
target to decarbonise UK electricity supplies

is unlikely, even though it is
backed by the government’s advisory Committee on Climate

In February, Cameron signed a
joint pledge
with his Labour and Liberal
Democrat counterparts, promising to uphold UK carbon targets, to
push for an ambitious UN climate deal and to phase out unabated
coal-fired power stations. There is as yet no date set for a

On energy, the manifesto promised to “keep your bills
as low as possible”. Shares in large UK power generators have
soared following the election result, in relief that Labour’s
planned energy price freeze will not happen according to the Financial

The manifesto pledged to ensure “reliable”
energy supplies and to “help you insulate your home”. It promised
to support “low cost [efficiency] measures” and insulate a million
homes in five years. This would be a reduction on the million homes
insulated since 2013, a rate that was in turn far below levels
before the 2010 election.

More controversially, the manifesto pledged to
end support for onshore wind. It said:

“We will end any new
public subsidy for [onshore wind] and change the law so that local
people have the final say on windfarm applications.”

The manifesto also promised to “continue to
support the safe development of shale gas” and back a “significant
expansion in new nuclear”. The Infrastructure Act,
passed earlier this year
, requires the
government to assess how the development of shale gas could fit
with UK carbon targets. On the eve of the election
Cameron said
there would be “no dash into
[shale gas] technology without the safeguards in place”.

The Tories have not explicitly set out their
plans for airport expansion, with various senior Conservatives
having previously opposed a third runway at Heathrow. Allegra
Stratton, political editor of BBC’s Newsnight, has
“sources” say the Tories will back a new
runway, though she doesn’t say where.

The manifesto said the Conservatives would
“continue to support development of North Sea oil and gas”. The
Tory-backed Infrastucture Act requires the next government to draw
up a strategy to “maximise the economic recovery” of UK oil. The
Conservative manifesto also promised to “[build] 1,400 new flood
defence schemes, to protect 300,000 homes”.

You can read a full run-down of the manifesto

Reactions to the election result

One key question surrounds the future of DECC,
both in terms of the department itself and in terms of who will
lead it, if it remains in place.

A source at DECC tells Carbon Brief:

“Mood wise [within the
department], it’s calm… We have no idea who the new secretary of
state will be. We certainly haven’t been told to expect machinery
of government changes to the department in a Conservative majority
scenario, so it would come as a surprise to everyone I

Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy
and a
potential Conservative candidate for London mayor

tells Carbon Brief that Nick Hurd and Matt Hancock are
potential candidates to take the helm at DECC. Other contenders for
the role include former environment minister Richard Benyon and
former energy minister Amber Rudd,
according to RTCC

Greg Barker, the out-going Conservative MP who
was the climate envoy to the prime minister and former DECC
tells RTCC
that UK climate influence will be
increased by the election outcome.
BusinessGreen asks
if the Tories will offer
“climate policy competence of chaos”, depending if Cameron is able
to “face down [Tory] climate sceptic backbenchers”.

Marc Williams, BBC Newsnight’s election producer says
the slim Conservative majority could leave Cameron
at the mercy of right-wind rebels

However, Liebreich tells Carbon Brief Cameron’s
hand will be freed by an end to coalition government and the poor
election return for UKIP, in particular the resignation of its
leader Nigel Farage after failing to win in Thanet

Liebreich tells Carbon Brief:

“What’s interesting
about this result is it enormously increases the degrees of
freedom… [David Cameron] will no longer have to appease the
headbangers [within his own party].”

Ben Caldecott, co-founder of the Conservative Environment
Network and an associate fellow of thinktank Bright Blue tells
Carbon Brief:

“The fact that DECC was a Lib Dem
fiefdom during the coalition made it susceptible to political
attack from some conservatives. That was an unfortunate
inevitability. A majority Conservative government with a team of
Conservative ministers in the DECC could quite conceivably get a
lot more done, particularly in terms of enabling power sector and
energy efficiency investment.

“Commentary from some of the environmental NGOs and others saying
that a Conservative government ‘untempered by the Lib Dems’ is
necessarily bad for climate and environment is simply wrong.

“One early priority should be the systematic and phased closure of
the UK’s coal-fired power stations – this would reduce air
pollution, send an important signal to international partners in
advance of the Paris negotiations, reduce our dependency on
imported Russian coal, and be one of the most cost-effective ways
to quickly reduce carbon emissions.”

A source at DECC tells Carbon Brief:

“It’s still too early to
say what the ramifications [of a Conservative majority] could be.
All three major party leaders signed up to the pledge to continue
to honour the aims of the Climate Change Act and to address climate
change, domestically and internationally. It’s widely acknowledged
that Cameron gets it and is on board. Certainly there’s no
anticipation of any diversion from the existing goals.”

Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, tells Carbon

“The unexpected UK
election result will have huge, but initially indirect impacts on
energy and climate change. The EU will be distracted by the UK
renegotiation weakening their ability to drive a strong climate
agreement in Paris. If the UK votes to leave the EU then expect a
complete revision of UK climate and energy policy.

“If the UK does not vote for ‘Brexit’ then the Eurosceptic
majority in the Tory party will remain a drag on attempts to create
a single European energy market and strengthen delivery of EU clean
energy and climate change goals. However, there is too much legal,
business and political momentum invested in decarbonising the UK
economy to expect major shifts in domestic policy, beyond immediate
cut-backs in support for onshore renewables and energy efficiency.
However, over the course of a Parliament there is a real risk the
UK could drift seriously off track in delivering carbon budgets,
precipitating an intense political fight over maintaining

Michael Grubb, professor of energy policy at
University College London tells Carbon Brief:

“For energy and climate policy the
election provokes more questions than answers, and two main ones
stand out:

“First, freed from the moderating hand of the Lib Dems, does Tory
policy now risk being captured by sceptical and anti-renewables
rhetoric? The good news is that there is unlikely to be any
appetite to undo the Energy Market Reform, but a lot of devil
remains in the detail of its implementation and progression. The
appointment of a new Energy Secretary will be one to watch

“Second, how will an EU referendum impact on energy and climate
policy – and vice versa? The UK is already committed to expanding
interconnection, and the EU Energy Union is making a serious push
in its own review of market arrangements. We face the real prospect
that just as the UK is moving towards far greater technical and
policy integration with the EU, the politics may take the UK out of
Europe, with implications that are hard to fathom.”

Emma-Lucy Pinchbeck, head of climate and energy
at WWF UK, tells Carbon Brief:

“The economy will be stronger
if the new government acts on climate change. The Conservative
manifesto contained some strong proposals to protect our natural
resources and put Britain on course for more sustainable growth.
Moreover, as a signatory to The Climate Coalition Leader’s Pledge,
David Cameron is committed to progressing policy in line with the
Climate Act, fighting for a global deal on climate change, and
driving forward the low carbon transition. We will support the
Prime Minister and his new Government to make good on these
pledges, so that Britain may realise the economic benefits of
acting on these ink-and-paper promises.”

Jim Watson, research director of the UK Energy
Research Centre tells Carbon Brief:

“In brief, I expect that
a Conservative government will remain committed to the Climate
Change Act and to international climate action. But there are
questions about the specific strategies and policies they will
favour to meet climate change targets, and balance this with other
goals such as energy security and affordability.

“Like many others, I’d expect less emphasis on onshore wind, and
more on other technologies and measures – though that is in tension
with ambitions to reduce consumer bills. A re-think on energy
efficiency policy is also likely, given the poor performance of the
Green Deal. I also think that the UK’s effectiveness within the EU
will be affected by the plans for an EU referendum, even if the
eventual result is for the UK to remain within the EU.”

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate
Group, says:

“Defying the polls, the
Conservative Party looks very likely to be having a majority for
the next five years. As an organisation whose business members come
from across the economy and have a collective turnover in excess of
£300bn, we urge the new government to build on the promising growth
of the environmental and low-carbon sector seen in the last five
years and put the sector at the heart of its long-term economic
plan. According to the latest Government figures, the UK’s
low-carbon economy now employs around 460,000 people, with a
turnover already reaching £122bn in 2013, twice that of the
auto-manufacturing industry. Building on this success is critical
to the UK economy’s long-term competitiveness and growth

“We welcome the Conservative Party’s commitments in its
manifesto to support the UK’s Climate Change Act, work towards a
strong climate change deal in Paris and continue to reduce the UK’s
emissions cost-effectively. Delivering on these objectives will
require working constructively with the Committee on Climate Change
and taking a pragmatic approach to the deployment of a wide range
of energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies, including
those that are becoming increasingly cost-effective such as
onshore wind.”

Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy
at the University of Exeter tells Carbon Brief:

“Like most people
keeping an eye on the polls, I am completely shocked by the
results. I had been thinking we might finally get an alliance of
parties which takes climate change and its institutional needs
seriously. Now, I fear, energy policy in GB may not just be more of
the same but possibly even worse than it was if the Tories follow
through on their anti-wind rhetoric and if we ‘leave’ Europe.

“Energy systems, most notably in Denmark and Germany, are
transforming before our very eyes into more efficient, secure ,
sustainable, integrated, decentralised systems. Meanwhile GB and
its society are missing out, and having to pay for, our
Governments’, Regulators’ and Incumbants’ continuing support for
the status quo and seeming inability to embrace change.

“What energy change that is happening in Britain is coming from
communities and new businesses who are recognising that the
top-down, centralised governance is doing nothing for them. At this
moment, this is where I see the only hope for the environment
coming from.”

Damian Carrington, Guardian head of environment

“One potential advantage of a majority
Conservative government will be less political risk for investors,
who were made nervous by the feuding between the coalition
partners, and that means projects will be cheaper to finance.

“Energy efficiency is key to both cutting emissions and energy
bills but the coalition’s Green Deal was a farce and worryingly the
Conservatives have shown no sign of significant reform.
Furthermore, the Tory aversion to building regulations will mean
homes will be less energy efficient than many want.”

Richard Nourse, managing partner at Greencoat
Capital, tells Carbon Brief:

“There should still be a huge
majority in the house in favour of the Climate Change Act and its
implementation. But with Hendry, Barker, Sandys, Byles, Yeo etc all
not continuing, we must insist the PM honours the
Valentine Day’s pledge
and puts into DECC someone
seized by the decarbonisation challenge and not beholden to the
potentially ‘bastard’ (
cf John Major
) deniers and luke warmists. The next five years
must set the foundations for 2030 electricity decarbonisation.”

Andrew Warren, honorary president of the
Association for the Conservation of Energy,
reflects on the election result for Business
. The site also has a
pre-election comment piece
from Amber Rudd,
Conservative energy minister in the previous parliament,
reiterating her party’s support for the UK Climate Change

The wind industry has
issued pleas
for the Conservatives to
reconsider their opposition to onshore windfarms.

Potential candidates for Secretary of State
for Energy and Climate Change

Speculation on who would take the helm at DECC began
even before the election result came in. Here is some background on
four potential candidates for the role.

Matt Hancock

Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, was appointed
minister of state at DECC in July 2014. He was also made a minister
of state at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, as
well as minister for Portsmouth. In 2012, Hancock was a co-author
of a Conservative Free Enterprise Group report that
called for fracking
and lower wind
subsidies. He also signed a 2012
by Tory MPs that called
lower wind subsidies. In March, it was
revealed that he had received a £18,000 donation from Neil Record,
whom the
described as a “key backer of the
UK’s leading climate sceptic lobby group”.

Amber Rudd

Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, was appointed
parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Energy
and Climate Change in July 2014. Rudd has repeatedly referenced
Margaret Thatcher’s legacy on climate change in her speeches in her
time as a minister.

Ahead of the Lima climate conference last year,
she told

“I want to move the
whole negotiations forward. Everybody keeps saying – such as in the
meeting on Sunday – there’s no point waiting until Paris. That was
the problem with Copenhagen: they waited too long. We’ve got these
key landmarks along the way, such as capitalising the Green Climate
Fund, getting to Lima, getting a draft text, getting commitments
for the first quarter of next year.”

However, on the eve of the conference, she
ordered not to travel to Lima
by the
Conservative whips so she could be present for a counter-terrorism
vote in the Commons.

Nick Hurd

Hurd, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, was
the minister for civil society in the last government before
resigning in July 2014. He has also served as a member of the
Environmental Audit Select Committee and was chair of the climate
change sub-group of the Conservative Party’s Quality of Life policy
review commission, which was commissioned by David Cameron when he
took over as the party leader in 2006.

Hurd is on the steering
of the Conservative Environment Network.
In 2006, he condemned Lord Lawson, a climate sceptic, writing
Conservative Home
: “It is disappointing to
see one of the great intellects of the Conservative past skip so
superficially around one of the big issues of our time.”

Richard Benyon

Benyon, MP for Newbury, was a
parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for the
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from May 2010 to October 2013.
In 2014, he spoke out against Conservative climate sceptics such as
Lord Lawson, telling

“I disagree with
[him on climate change]. I thought he was an outstanding chancellor
and he has got a brilliant mind, but I disagree with him on

He added that he and other Conservative MPs had met
leading scientists who “quietly explained to us how serious all
this is”.