Green Growth & Business Forum - Speech by HE Antony Phillipson

Full text of High Commissioner's keynote address on the second day of the Green Growth & Business Forum in Singapore.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Full text of High Commissioner's keynote address on the second day of the Green Growth & Business Forum in Singapore.

Mr Choi Shing Kwok, Permanent Secretary of the Singapore Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Dr Ryutaro Yatsu, Vice-Minister of the Environment Ministry of Japan, Mr Ronnie Tay, CEO of the National Environment Agency, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this morning and to have the chance to address you at the start of this, the second day of the Green Growth and Business Forum, which the British High Commission is delighted to be co-hosting with our Singaporean government colleagues.

Yesterday we heard about the enormous economic and business opportunities for countries and businesses who go furthest and fastest for green growth, and indeed the considerable costs of not doing so. We discussed the opportunities and challenges in key areas of business, focussing on the energy, waste and financial sectors.

Today our focus is different, although I am sure that many of the issues discussed yesterday will provide helpful context and background for today’s sessions.

Those who were here yesterday morning will have heard Greg Clark, the UK’s Minister for Cities talk of the key role governments need to play to move their economies onto a lower carbon, greener pathway. Our first panel this morning will examine this role in more detail.

The afternoon sessions are dedicated to the crucial part that research and innovation have to play, in collaboration with business and government, in delivering low carbon energy.

They will also look at the importance of innovative financing schemes in developing and applying innovative technologies in the energy sector.

I will go into these issues in more detail a bit later.

Before I do that however, I want to just pause and explain why it is that the UK government considers green growth and low carbon development to be so important for all our futures.

Let’s start with climate change. The UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has described climate change as “probably the greatest non-traditional threat that we face in the 21st century”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a speech in Jakarta earlier this year, said that climate change ranks alongside other key global threats like terrorism, epidemics, poverty, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

And this is not just political rhetoric, which takes me to first point I want to make this morning which is that the serious scientific debate about the existence of climate change is over.

Most of you will be aware of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report which has been published over recent months.

That Report told us that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and that it is over 95% certain that humans have caused most of that warming since the 1950s.

It also states that many of the observed changes in that time are unprecedented over periods ranging from decades to millennia: the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, the sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and oceans have increased.

The Report also confirmed that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by more than 40% since pre-industrial times and warned that the longer it takes to reduce emissions, the more difficult and expensive it is likely to be to stay within the target of limiting the increase in the world’s temperature to 2 degrees, which the Report said would have “dangerous” consequences.

The problem we face is that the current global emissions trajectory we’re on puts us on the path to a temperature rise of at least 4 degrees, which the Report said would have “catastrophic” consequences.

Which is why the second point I want to emphasise is that all governments need to act decisively and ambitiously now to address climate change and its consequences: because we are running out of time…

So, what does my government think is needed? Two things.

First all countries need to sign up to a new global climate agreement in Paris next year which promises to deliver on the 2 degree target.

In a few hours time, six and a half thousand miles away in Bonn, the world’s climate negotiators will sit down and continue working on achieving this crucial objective.

We believe the deal is on, but we have only 18 months to deliver it, and only the highest levels of ambition, that word again, collaboration and political leadership will ensure we succeed.

An ambitious agreement alone is not sufficient however. We also need to see all countries start taking action now to actually deliver the ambitious emissions reductions target they will need to set themselves in 2015.

This is where green growth and low carbon economic development, the issues covered in this event yesterday, will have a vital role to play.

Green growth will not just help countries deliver a lower emissions trajectory, it will help them do so in a way which is consistent with continued, sustainable economic growth.

It will also help avoid the huge costs that unabated climate change will impose.

These costs are already being felt by the insurance industry. Losses relating to natural disasters and weather events have quadrupled from about 30 billion pounds in the 1980s to close on 120 billion pounds over the last 10 years.

And there are also the environmental and social costs to consider: the World Health Organisation estimates that globally a staggering one in eight deaths now results from exposure to air pollution.

Greg Clark touched yesterday on some of the measures already taken by the UK government to embed green growth in our own economy, and you will hear more of this today.

These have already resulted in a reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions of 26% over 1990 levels, and our aim is for an 80% reduction by 2050.

And we are not sacrificing our growth to achieve this. The latest OECD figures put UK economic growth in 2014 at 3.2%, making it the fastest growing G7 economy.

A crucial part of the UK’s green growth strategy is the way in which we are seeking to transform our energy system, both to reduce energy demand and to increase the supply of lower carbon and renewable energy.

UK renewable generation has already increased to 15% of our electricity mix from only about 2% 10 years or so ago, with 20 gigawatts now being produced.

Record investments of around 40 billion pounds are expected to increase this to over 30% by 2020, powering 10 million homes.

The UK now has more installed offshore wind capacity than any other country and is ranked by Ernst & Young as the number one place in the world for investing in offshore wind and number four for investing in renewables.

On solar photovoltaic (PV), we increased our installed capacity by 70% in the year to June 2013 and our target is for 10 gigawatts by 2020, with an increasing share coming from solar panels on commercial and public buildings.

And on the demand side, continued efforts to increase energy efficiency could reduce the UK’s energy consumption by 40% by 2030.

This leads me to my third point: the way in which all countries address their future energy needs will be a crucially important component of their green growth journey and, almost certainly, the main determinant of their future emissions pathways.

Over 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from energy use, so this is a global issue. It is a particular issue, however, at this moment in time for emerging and rapidly developing economies like those in South East Asia.

The majority of South East Asia’s emissions have traditionally come from the forestry and land use sectors, but this is changing.

According to the International Energy Agency, energy demand in the region has increased by 150% since 1990, and is projected to rise by a further 80% in the next 20 years.

On a business as usual pathway, South East Asian emissions, which already account for about 12% of global emission, could double by 2030.

With three quarters of all thermal power plants currently under construction in the region being coal-fired, and oil consumption projected to double by 2030, this is the business as usual reality.

Urgent action is therefore required in this region to incentivise and deploy lower carbon and renewable energy solutions.

On the energy demand side, the International Energy Agency’s Efficient ASEAN Scenario signposts an alternative future. It suggests that the investment required for high efficiency energy technologies would be more than offset by lower fuel bills.

Between 2013 and 2035, cumulative additional investment in industry, transport and buildings amounting to more than 200 billion pounds could deliver fuel bill savings of almost 300 billion pounds.

Under this scenario, ASEAN energy intensity would improve by 2.5% per year on average, cutting growth in primary energy demand by almost 15% in 2035.

The final point I would like to highlight today is that research and innovation will play a crucial role in helping all countries meet the challenge of providing secure and affordable energy supplies to their citizens in a way that is consistent with a stable climate and high environmental standards.

Research is required to continue the development new ways of generating, storing, transporting and saving energy.

Innovation is required to reduce the costs of new technologies, to ensure that they can be deployed and will work reliably at scale, and that we have the infrastructure, skills and financing to make the best use of them.

In the UK we recognise the equal importance of research and innovation.

Our research councils are funding groundbreaking work at our universities and research centres.

Our Technology Strategy Board has developed seven Catapult centres where scientists and businesses work together on late stage research and development.

We already have Catapults in Offshore Renewable Energy, Transport Systems, and Future Cities, and we are about to launch a new Catapult which will focus specifically on Energy Systems, integrating approaches like distributed generation and smart energy meters.

We have an Energy Technologies Institute, a public-private partnership – involving Shell and Rolls-Royce, amongst others – which is putting £200 million into large scale prototype and generation projects.

The ETI recently helped a British company, Blade Dynamics, to develop an 80m long wind turbine blade, which is now being trialled by Siemens Wind.

At the same time, the UK government remains committed to working with countries around the world to promote lower carbon, greener economic development.

The UK’s International Climate Fund is the UK’s global climate finance offer to the developing world. 30% of this 4 billion pound fund goes to support projects aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Here in South East Asia, our International Climate Fund is being deployed in a wide array of initiatives, including 112 million pounds that we have contributed to the Global Environmental Facility which has supported projects across ASEAN, 5 million pounds we have committed to a Climate Innovation Centre in Hanoi, and the more than 7 million pounds we have spent in Indonesia to promote low carbon growth and further significant UK-funded initiatives are already planned or under way including 11 million pounds we will spend in Indonesia thorough the UK-German Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) Facility.

On science and innovation we actively encourage collaboration between UK and South East Asian researchers to meet the Green Growth challenge.

And as Minister Lee Yi Shyan noted in his remarks yesterday, Cambridge University has established its first research centre outside the UK here in Singapore, with the support of the National Research Foundation.

Working with NUS and NTU, the Cambridge team aims to develop ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the petrochemical industries on Jurong Island.

Strathclyde University, one of our leaders in tidal power, is working with the Energy Research Institute at NTU to develop solutions for South East Asia.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that this is a challenging path that we are embarking on. But as I said earlier it is not one that we can choose not to travel and, what’s more, at present we are making our way with insufficient haste and determination.

Only by continuing to work together, on best policy practice and in business, science and innovation will we succeed in achieving the growth we need but at an environmental and social cost that is sustainable.

And we can do it. As I mentioned at Eden Hall yesterday we should have in mind the comment by one of yesterday’s speakers “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.

My government is fully committed to building and using the partnerships we need around the world and particularly in this region to do just that.

I am confident that this Green Growth & Business Forum will prove a valuable addition to the collaboration between us on this important agenda, and I am grateful to all who have worked hard to put it together especially those in the British High Commission and the Singapore National Climate Change Secretariat.

And thanks very much to all of you for your kind attention, I hope it helps to set the scene for a productive and enjoyable set of discussions today.

Day 1 opening keynote:

Speech by Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State, MTI

Day 2 opening keynote:

Speech by Choi Shing Kwok, Permanent Secretary of MEWR

Further Information

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Published 4 June 2014