The former minister who wrote the government’s review of Net Zero climate policy has started a second job with a firm specialising in decarbonisation and clean technology.
Chris Skidmore became an adviser to the London-based Emissions Capture Company on 3 January, before his long-awaited Net Zero Review had even been published. His role will involve “providing advice on the global energy transition and decarbonisation”.
One of the primary recommendations of the Net Zero Review was to review “incentives for investment in decarbonisation,” which could see companies like Skidmore’s new employer benefit significantly.
The former energy minister will earn almost as much through the second job as his £84,000 MP salary, for the equivalent of up to two days’ work per week. Skidmore has another ‘second job’ as a non-executive director at an online education company.
Skidmore is a former minister attending cabinet who held roles in the department for health and education, but most recently served as the minister for energy and clean growth. In this role he signed off on the UK’s 2050 net zero pledge, in 2019. On Twitter, he describes himself as a “former UK cabinet minister for energy and climate”.
Although he left government in February 2020, Skidmore was asked by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to chair a highly influential review into net zero policy. The review was undertaken in September last year and published its findings last month.
One of the primary recommendations of the Net Zero Review was “reviewing incentives for investment in decarbonisation, including via the tax system and capital allowances,” and the report makes multiple references to industrial decarbonisation.
The Emissions Capture Company, which is made up of experts in finance, technology and engineering, according to its website, builds processes which allow companies in manufacturing and other energy intensive industries to convert some of their emissions into useful byproducts.
Skidmore, who trained as a historian before entering politics, will provide the firm with “advice on the global energy transition and decarbonisation,” according to his entry in the register of members financial interests.
The former minister did not consult the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) before taking on the role with Emissions Capture Company. Acoba is an independent watchdog tasked with monitoring the jobs taken up by former ministers and senior civil servants once they leave office.
Under Acoba rules, he was not required to consult the watchdog because the role began more than two years since he left office in February 2020, although his role as chair of the Net Zero Review - which was supported by a review secretariat based in the department - raises questions about his proximity to government business since leaving office.
When former ministers take up roles in the private sector within two years of leaving ministerial office, Acoba will generally impose conditions on their employment, including a ban on lobbying the government on behalf of their new employer for up to two years.
The body will take into account whether the former minister’s role had a direct connection to the company or industry in question, and whether their previous role in government would be likely to provide the firm with privileged information.
An Acoba source told NationalWorld that in cases like this it would be for the department to impose any restrictions on lobbying.
Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy and a former MP, said: “The former Clean Energy Minister, conducting a review - at the Government’s request - of Net Zero policies which makes recommendations that the company he now works for might benefit from certainly raises eyebrows. If the ACOBA rules are silent on this, they may need reexamining."
Skidmore is also a non-executive director at the Oxford International Education Group, an international private education provider. He earns £40,000 per year and works about one day per month for the company.
Throughout 2022 Skidmore also provided research and writing services to Public Policy Projects, an independent public policy institute, through his company Bosworth. He earned £47,349 for 406 hours work - the equivalent of around a day per week.
In November, Skidmore was one of a number of prominent Conservatives to announce that he would not stand at the next general election.
In a statement at the time, he said: "It is clear to me that net zero and tackling climate change will be the greatest challenge, yet also the greatest opportunity, of our generation.
"It is this opportunity - to demonstrate how we must protect our environment and climate for the future, at the same time as delivering a new clean and sustainable energy system that shifts us all away from fossil fuels - that I now wish to devote my attention to.
"Rather than step aside, I hope that in the future I can step up to continue to play my own small part in helping to deliver on the energy transition that the world needs."