At least 60 people apply to head UK government climate crisis advisory body
Emma Howard Boyd and Laura Sandys believed to be candidates for one of most senior climate policy jobs At least 60 people have applied to be the next chair of the Committee on Climate Change, with the government planning to appoint a new head in November, the Guardian has learned. Several of the most likely candidates for the role one of the most senior jobs in the field of UK climate policy have been ruled out or ruled themselves out. However, for the first time, the job could go to a woman, with at least two women prominent in the UKs green policy circles thought to be possible choices. Lord Deben, the outgoing chair of the CCC , told the Guardian: You have to be somebody who understands how the political system works. Because you have to get the balance right as to when you really have to go in with both fists. You do also have to have a very fundamental respect for the science. And you have to be able to resist all pressures for mission creep, and to be fearless about telling the government and the opposition. The government is likely to choose someone with political experience, although a scientist or public administrator is possible. Civil servants are now sifting through the applications for the three-day a month, 1,000-a-day job, but the field has been in effect narrowed by the governments desire to avoid byelections it might lose, after two Tory losses and one narrow hold in three major by-elections in July . As it stands, at least four current and recently departed Tory MPs are out of the running, the Guardian has learned. Amber Rudd, a former cabinet minister, who helped to negotiate the Paris climate agreement in 2015 while energy minister , has not applied; nor has Claire ONeill, former energy minister and Boris Johnsons original choice to be president of Cop26 . Chris Skidmore, the governments former net zero tsar , is understood to have applied but is thought unlikely to be considered as the government is unwilling to face more byelections. Alok Sharma, the former cabinet minister internationally lauded for his role in helming the Cop26 climate summit, is understood not to have applied but would have been a prime candidate. Among the women thought to be in with a good chance of advancing to the next round are Emma Howard Boyd, former chair of The Environment Agency, and Laura Sandys, chair of the Green Alliance thinktank. Sandys confirmed to the Guardian that she had applied. Howard Boyd did not respond to the Guardians requests for comment. Nicola Sturgeon, former first minister of Scotland, was tipped last year as a contender, but owing to the turmoil that has engulfed her and the Scottish National party that possibility seems remote. Sir Patrick Vallance, the former government chief scientist, was spoken of as a possible candidate, but he told the Guardian after publication that he had not applied for the post. Nigel Topping, whose term as UN climate champion for Cop26 was widely praised, is understood not to have put himself forward. The climate scientist Prof Piers Forster is now interim chair of the CCC and is willing to stay as long as needed for a new chair to be appointed. The appointment offers a rare opportunity for Rishi Sunak and the energy secretary, Grant Shapps, to shape the increasingly heated debate over climate policy for the next parliament. Ministers have been embroiled in rows over green policy since the byelection in Boris Johnsons old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, in outer London, which the Tories held by 495 votes in what many judged to be a reaction to the forthcoming ultra-low emission zone (Ulez). Sign up to Down to Earth The planet's most important stories. Get all the week's environment news - the good, the bad and the essential after newsletter promotion Labour sources said the partys pledge to throw everything at the race to net zero was still intact, but the policies are now likely to become an electoral battleground. The CCC, established under the 2008 Climate Change Act, sets the UKs carbon budget, which the government must meet or be held accountable through the courts, and dispenses independent advice to ministers on the impact of climate-related policy. Chairing the committee is a non-party political role, but allows vast scope for critiquing the government . The last annual progress report from the committee found the government was falling behind on nearly every aspect of climate policy . Deben, the recently departed chair, better known as John Gummer before his ennoblement in 2010, was a Tory environment secretary and minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. That did not stop him delivering blows to the government, describing its policy to open a new coalmine in Cumbria as unacceptable, and criticising the granting of North Sea licences . Ministers may be tempted to appoint a more biddable successor. However, the new chair must also be agreed by the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, meaning the Westminster government is unlikely to be able to choose a highly partisan or deliberately under-powered candidate. This article was amended on 3 August 2023. An earlier version said that Sir Patrick Vallance was thought to have applied for the role; but he told the Guardian after publication that he had not.