Everything You Need to Know About UK Energy and Climate Secretary Amber Rudd Before COP21: Part 4

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This is the fourth part in our series profiling Amber Rudd. Here  DeSmog UK  looks at her time so far as Secretary of State. Read Part 3 here.

When the 2015 election rolled around last May, green campaigners were relieved when Amber Rudd was appointed as Energy and Climate Secretary at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) – at least she’s not a climate denier they said.

But as with the October 2013 government reshuffle, the same theme played out with Osborne-ites being promoted to key political positions.

This was perhaps best described in a June New York Times opinion article: “The new government is full of ‘Georgians,’ loyalists who owe their advancement to Mr. Osborne: politicians like Sajid Javid, the business secretary, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, and Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister. Like mafia soldiers, they could be easily mobilized in the interests of their capo, promoting his cause in the leadership contest when it comes.”

New Energy Secretary

As head of DECC, everyone expected Rudd to follow the same pro-renewables agenda that was championed by her coalition predecessor, Ed Davey. In her previous role as under-secretary at DECC, Rudd had advocated for renewables and limiting average global temperature increases to no more than 2C.

Entering the role, she made headlines as she vowed to “unleash a new solar revolution” across Britain. And as Damian Carrington at the Guardian wrote when Rudd was promoted to energy secretary, she was “expected to push hard for a deal [at Paris COP21] to cut emissions and boost investments in energy sector.”

Rudd is a “strong believer in business and markets as drivers of change, rather than regulation and government intervention,” Carrington wrote. “The balance between those two approaches is at the heart of arguments about how to fight climate change and also how to ensure the UK’s energy system is simultaneously low-carbon, affordable and secure.”

According to one government insider speaking to Carrington, Rudd is “really green and no-nonsense” – she can get things done.

And get things done she did. Just not the things some were hoping for. Over the summer and into September a seemingly endless slew of cuts to renewable subsidies and other government green initiatives were unleashed.

Just ten weeks into the new government Rudd described DECC’s 2015 priorities as focusing on decarbonisation targets not renewable energy targets. To achieve decarbonisation, fracking – a “low carbon” fuel she described – will play an important role in the energy mix.

Remember, Rudd has always shown a strong support for fracking – something which has continued throughout her new role. And fracking firms definitely welcomed her promotion to Energy Secretary, particularly after she confirmed that rules would be loosened in an effort to kick-start the industry in Britain.

Industry Ties

But aside from her favourable welcome by the shale industry, what other industries has Rudd been tied to?

Energydesk analysis shows Rudd has received significant amounts of funding from conservative ‘clubs’ – including The Carlton Club and United and Cecil Club – which have been criticised for their lack of transparency. The clubs are under no obligation to reveal their donors, unless the donations are over £7,500.

Rudd also came under flak for taking £2,500 in cash from controversial banker Ian Hannam, a former advisor to global mining giants such as coal and oil miner BHP Billiton, oil and gas company Vedanta and massive coal producer Xtrata. Hannam was fined £450,000 by regulators for markets abuse while working for JP Morgan, and quit the firm in 2012. He lost an appeal on the decision in May last year.

Rudd told a local paper that she used to work with Hannam at JP Morgan. “Ian and his wife are good friends of mine and they wanted to give £2,500 towards my campaign. I am very grateful to them,” she added.

Then this summer, Rudd was criticised for failing to disclose that her brother is the boss of the powerful financial PR and lobbying firm, Finsbury which represents Shell and mining multinational Rio Tinto. British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) was also a client of Finsbury in the early 2000s until it dissolved in 2009.

The news was particularly controversial at the time as DECC, under Rudd’s leadership, had just granted planning permission to a controversial gas storage facility in Lancashire. The gas storage company, Halite Energy Group, is represented by Roland’s Finsbury.

Under new rules introduced after the general election, MPs are required to disclose all family members engaged in lobbying the public sector. Rudd’s financial interest register is now fully updated to include her brother.

So, how has this all played out since Rudd was elected?  And, in the final days before the Paris climate conference where do DECC‘s priorities lie under Amber Rudd’s leadership? We explore these questions in our final part of the series.

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Kyla is a freelance writer and editor with work appearing in the New York Times, National Geographic, HuffPost, Mother Jones, and Outside. She is also a member of the Society for Environmental Journalists.

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