Promoting international cooperation in offshore wind energy

Mark Simmonds gave a speech to the London Diplomatic Corps on international cooperation in offshore wind energy

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

Mark Simmonds

Foreign Officer Minister Mark Simmonds said:

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to the FCO for this update on the UK’s offshore wind energy sector and to promote international collaboration in this increasingly important low carbon technology.

I’m pleased to have with us Charles Hendry MP, former Minister of State for Energy and Programme Ambassador for Global Offshore Wind 2014, and Karl John, Vice Chairman of RenewableUK and his colleagues. Their presentations will provide details of the phenomenal growth of the offshore wind industry in the UK, and outline synergies for business, policy and technological partnerships.

It is fitting – and no coincidence – that this meeting is being held during UK Climate Week. It is also fitting that it is co-hosted by the Foreign Office particularly given the priority we attach to this area of international cooperation on “green” business and technology opportunities, as well as using our diplomatic reach to tackle the international challenges of climate change, with which we have achieved some success, such as with China, Mexico and in sub-Saharan Africa, where we are assisting countries to cope with climate mitigation, impacts and adaptation.

William Hague said in July last year that climate change is “probably the greatest non traditional threat that we face in the 21st century”.

The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Climate change is happening and having real social, economic, security and environmental consequences for many people across the world, including as we have recently seen ourselves here in the UK and in my own constituency.

It is a global threat that requires us all to think and operate beyond our traditional boundaries. There is a window of opportunity to limit the global rise in temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, but that opportunity is closing, and international cooperation this year is critical in building the political momentum towards a global deal in 2015. I can assure you this is something the FCO is working on strongly, through bilateral dialogues and multilateral partnerships.

Whilst the UK and many other countries are making significant progress in reducing their Greenhouse Gas emissions and moving to low carbon economies, we cannot underestimate the scale of the task we face. One aspect we find particularly encouraging is even countries with hydro-carbon based economies want to open their energy mix to renewable sources, which presents huge opportunities.

The energy sector accounts for two thirds of global Greenhouse Gas emissions. Global energy demand is rising rapidly, by 1.3% per year on average, with the International Energy Agency projecting world primary energy demand increasing by 40% in the next 20 years. If we are to avoid a 4 degree world it is crucial that we decarbonise the way our societies are powered.

Which is why we need international action and why the Foreign Office, and the British Government more widely, is supporting international collaboration.

We need Governments to be ambitious with a legally binding global deal on climate mitigation in Paris in 2015. In that context, the UK calls for urgent action on reaching an ambitious EU 2030 energy and climate change agreement, to spur on investment in reliable energy and build momentum for a global climate deal.

In addition to Governments, we need economists to develop new economic strategies to galvanise green investment.

We need the financial sector to find a way to meet the investment requirements.

We need scientists to push the boundaries of innovation to enable us to be more technologically resource efficient.

And, crucially, we need the business community to adopt low carbon growth strategies to help the world reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, to make better use of global resources – including energy, water, food and commodities – and to exploit new and trade and investment opportunities.

Whilst climate change presents a threat to global prosperity, our response to it also presents opportunities for skilled jobs, sustainable growth and resource efficiency.

The global market for low carbon goods and services is worth £3 trillion and growing at 4% per year. The UK itself has a trade surplus of more than £5 billion in green goods and services, with exports growing at 3.7%.

Renewable energy is very much part of the solution. Bringing a diverse, clean and efficient energy mix will enhance international energy security and protect the international markets and consumers from long term international fuel price volatility.

We believe that offshore wind energy has the potential to make a significant contribution not only to the energy mix of the UK, but also to that of many countries represented here today.

That is why the British government is committed to growing this sector, domestically and around the world. The opportunities and benefits are significant. Our robust regulatory regime and planning framework, as well as our large wind resource, has made the UK one of the most attractive locations in the world for offshore wind investment.

We have attracted over £10 billion of investment from countries as diverse as Japan and Germany, Canada and Korea, the UAE and Denmark. And from companies ranging from the Bank of Japan to Siemens, Samsung to Vestas, and utilities such as DONG, E.ON, Statkraft and Statoil. The sector currently supports 6800 skilled jobs.

That investment has helped the UK develop leading capability in project development, finance, installation, operation and technology R&D. Underpinning that are pioneering initiatives, such the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and Electricity Market Reform to provide investor confidence, as you will hear shortly.

We are keen to build on that success in partnership with you. Thank you for coming along today and I very much hope you will encourage your companies, policy makers and technology developers in your home countries to look to the UK for new collaborative opportunities in this important industry, and to join us at Global Offshore Wind 2014 exhibition and conference, in Glasgow in June. Thank you.

Published 13 March 2014