Defra retains many climate change-related responsibilities

Despite the formation of a new energy and climate change department, Defra will continue to hold responsibility for related issues such as flooding, adaptation and waste.

The government yesterday announced its new ministerial team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), confirming that while its direct climate change responsibilities will be moved to the new Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), related portfolios such as waste, climate adaptation and air pollution will stay at the department.

As previously announced Hilary Benn will remain as Secretary of State at the slimmed down Defra.

He will be joined by Jane Kennedy as minister for farming and the environment, Phil Hunt as minister for sustainable development, climate change adaptation and air quality, and Huw Irranca-Davies joins as minister for the natural and marine environment, wildlife and rural affairs.

"I am delighted to welcome the new team to Defra and I look forward to working with them on all the challenges that lie ahead, from food production and supporting a thriving farming sector, to tackling waste and improving our natural environment," said Benn.

Following the shock announcement last week that the government was to form a new dedicated Department for Energy and Climate Change to be headed up by Ed Miliband, it was unclear precisely how much of Defra's portfolio would be shifted into the new department, particularly given that the government had previously stressed the close links between climate change and areas such as waste and flood management.

However, the government has confirmed Defra will retain many of its climate change-related responsibilities, barring those areas directly related to the climate change bill, international climate change negotiations and carbon emission reductions.

For example, Jane Kennedy, who joins Defra from the Treasury and has previously held ministerial positions in the Department of Health, Department of Work and Pensions and Northern Ireland Office, will take responsibility for waste and recycling, the Environment Agency, water, coastal erosion and flooding.

Similarly, Huw Irranca-Davies, who joins Defra from the Wales Office where he has been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, will take responsibility for a raft of marine and rural issues, as well as improving environmental regulation.

Underlining the close links the government is hoping to build between Defra and the new DECC, Phil Hunt has been appointed a minister in both departments.

The Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Hunt previously served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Justice Ministry, and will take responsibility for Defra's sustainable development, domestic climate change adaptation, and air and local environmental quality activities.

Speaking earlier this week, a spokeswoman for DECC said that with areas such as waste, transport, housing, planning, and climate change adaptation all directly related to climate change policy and carbon emissions the new department would be committed to building close links across government with other parts of government.

By James Murray

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