Speech

Edward Davey opening remarks to the Clean Energy Ministerial

Check against delivery Introduction Excellencies, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen… On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, let me welcome …

Check against delivery

Introduction

Excellencies, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen…

On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, let me welcome you all to London for the third Clean Energy Ministerial.

In its short history, some of the biggest names in clean energy have hosted the Ministerial.

The United States, leading the G20 with nearly $50 billion of clean energy investment last year. Abu Dhabi, home of the world’s first zero-carbon city.

And now, in this Olympic year - the Diamond Jubilee year of our Queen - it is our very great honour to welcome you to the United Kingdom.

History

Our energy history is a story of great heights - and gloomy depths.

The UK was home to the industrial revolutions that drove prosperity - and pollution. The steam engine may been invented here, but so was the term ‘acid rain’.

By the 1950s, air pollution became so bad here that London’s infamous smog reduced daytime visibility to less than a metre.

Concerts were cancelled because no-one could see the stage.

So we passed the Clean Air Act - one of the world’s first pieces of environmental legislation.

Sixty years later, we are proud to be at the leading edge of the clean energy revolution.

We have carbon budgets all the way out to 2027.

Through what we call the Green Deal, we are creating a new nationwide market in energy efficiency, to make our homes and businesses less wasteful. We’re putting clean energy at the heart of our electricity system, reforming our market to let low-carbon sources compete on cost.

And we are running a competition to launch the world’s first commercial scale Carbon Capture and Storage plant.

So my message today is a simple one: the UK stands for ambitious action on climate change.

We will work with our partners to deliver a cleaner, safer energy future for our citizens - and a vibrant green economy for our businesses.

These are aims that I know you all share. And I look forward to working with you as the sessions unfold.

But before I hand over to my esteemed colleague Dr Chu, I wanted to talk about two things that I think sit at the heart of this summit: investment, and ambition.

Investment

Let me start with investment.

Over the past few years, the global low-carbon sector has outshone the rest of the economy. In 2011, the trillionth dollar was invested in clean energy; investment in renewables now outstrips investment in fossil fuels.

But as major economies face tougher fiscal conditions, indications suggest growth has slowed.

As I’m sure we will hear from Michael Liebreich shortly, new financial investment in the first quarter of 2012 is significantly down on the previous quarter. As stimulus funding falls and fiscal tightening takes hold, new industries could suffer - unless private finance makes up the difference.

The risk is that recession delays low-carbon investment, leaving us a high-carbon legacy even when the global economy recovers - and making meaningful action on climate change more expensive.

And we don’t start from a good place. 80% of our emissions from energy are already ‘locked-in’, and the emissions gap is growing. So our challenge is to make sure investment in clean energy soars, even if the wider economy is sluggish.

Government cannot do this alone: we do not have the reach, or the balance sheet.

So we must create the right frameworks for investment, sending clear signals to the businesses who will lead the low-carbon transition. We must encourage innovation, and do what we can to bring clean technologies to market.

That, of course, is what the Clean Energy Ministerial is all about. And the threat of an investment squeeze makes our task more urgent, not less.

Ambition

That brings me to my second point: we need to be more ambitious in the way we communicate.

We need to make the medium and long-term case, even when people are preoccupied by short-term impacts.

We need to commit to our vision of a cleaner future - and show people what that future will hold.

The benefits that clean energy will bring, for those who need it - and those who develop it.

We should state more strongly the business case for going green. Efficiency policies are unashamedly good for growth: using less resources lowers operating costs and frees up capital.

But the low-carbon shift promises other rewards, too: insulation from volatile global fossil fuel prices, and protection from the worst economic impacts of climate change.

In some quarters, the green agenda is painted as an unbearable burden. But global growth leaders are supporting clean technologies and ambitious climate policies: Take Brazil’s ambitious emissions targets. Germany’s record investment in renewables. Korea’s significant green growth commitments. Mexico’s historic climate bill. Denmark’s new clean energy targets.

Each of the nations represented here today - and many more - are finding their own path to a cleaner future. Emerging economies and energy-rich nations alike are embracing the low-carbon shift.

The Clean Energy Ministerial is about learning from those who are leading.

By collaborating on clean energy projects, and sharing our knowledge, we can bring sustainable light to people in developing countries. We can make our cities less wasteful, and our appliances more efficient.

We can bring the brightest minds to bear on the most intractable problems.

This week we will celebrate projects that achieve these aims - and more. And they are already making a difference.

In a time of scepticism and doubt, the achievements of the past three years - like the Solar lighting initiative, enabling half a million off-grid lighting systems, or the Clean Energy Solutions Centre, already being used by 150 countries - those achievements ring out above the noise.

Conclusion

On which note, I fear I have spoken for long enough already, so let me offer a final thought by way of conclusion.

Bringing clean energy solutions to market is vital for the low-carbon shift. Without cleaner energy supplies, more efficient buildings and smarter grid connections we will not succeed.

But this week’s meetings will not happen in isolation.

They are an invaluable counterpart to all our other efforts to accelerate clean energy and slow climate change.

The Clean Energy Ministerial - not just this week, but throughout the year - can help us achieve just that. Your presence here speaks to the commitment your nations have shown to securing a better future for all the world’s citizens.

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