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The Warsaw Voice » Business » July 9, 2008
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Climate Change: Why Be Concerned?
July 9, 2008   
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By Ric Todd, British ambassador to Poland

From the melting glaciers of the Arctic and the Andes to the growing deserts of Africa and droughts in various parts of the world, climate change is a reality affecting the ecological balance of our planet. It is a potential burden for our economic and social development, including in Europe. More than that, climate change is shaping the geopolitical map for the next century with important consequences.

Facing up to the climate change challenge is perhaps the greatest long-term challenge facing the human race. On the basis of powerful and convincing scientific evidence, the governments of the European Union concluded last year that Europe needed to take bold and difficult action. This is simply because climate change threatens both Europe's and the world's security and prosperity.

Climate change is a very important issue in United Kingdom politics and society. We will all be affected by the impacts of climate change. It is a threat to the prosperity and security of the whole world. According to an independent report by Lord Stern, if we do not act now, the global economy will suffer damage in this century equivalent to the two world wars and the Great Depression. Every country in the world shares a common interest in transition to a low-carbon global economy.

What is the UK doing?
In the UK, the government, public administration, scientists, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, the media and many other sectors work in informal partnership on climate change. The government engages in open dialogue with the public on the issues. The UK is also a center for research, analysis and prognosis. The Hadley Centre is a world leader in climate change modeling and research. Extensive research on biofuels is also being carried out.

The UK government has set ambitious targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by at least 26 percent by 2020 and 60 percent by 2050. We have adopted measures in the Energy White Paper, setting out our objective of transition to a low-carbon economy while maintaining robust and sustainable growth. We are establishing long-term carbon policies across our economy. We need to reduce our demand for energy, and to develop and deploy alternatives to fossil fuels. The UK government launched its national Renewable Energy Strategy consultation on June 26. The final strategy will be published in spring 2009.

Energy saving
Using energy more efficiently is a cost-effective way of cutting CO2 emissions. It can also cut the bills of every household and every business that is now feeling the squeeze of higher energy prices. We can do a lot to reduce energy demand.

National agencies such as the Carbon Trust, Energy Trust, Environment Agency and Rural Climate Forum, as well as a number of NGOs, are running public information campaigns increasing awareness and understanding of the role of individuals in tackling climate change. These include Act on C02 and the CO2 Calculator. Further advertising campaigns are planned showing both households and businesses what they can do to reduce their energy and fuel bills. Individual businesses and companies are now introducing internal campaigns and regulations to tackle climate change.

The UK government wants to make it possible within the next decade for every householder to insulate their home, install low-energy light bulbs, and use low-energy consumer goods. We aim to help every business manage its energy bills and usage through efficiency measures. We have also agreed a timetable for all new homes to be "carbon neutral" from 2016 and new non-domestic buildings to meet this target by 2019.

The British government is committed to enabling all its citizens to heat their homes affordably. We have put in place a range of policies and tools to tackle the Fuel Poverty. Fuel poverty programs have amounted to 800 million pounds over 2005-2008 in England alone. Those over 60 receive a Winter Fuel Payment. The Warm Front Grant helps to make homes warmer, healthier and more energy-efficient.

Renewable energy sources
The UK is achieving its EU targets on renewables. This means, by 2020, increasing the proportion of our energy coming from renewable sources to 15 percent. This means the most dramatic change in our energy policy since the advent of nuclear power. It will require an investment program of around 100 billion pounds over the next 12 years. It will mean that by 2020, renewables will account for over 30 percent of electricity supply, 14 percent of heat supply, and up to 10 percent of transport fuel. Moreover, we estimate that it will provide significant business opportunities and generate around 160,000 jobs.

Research on renewable energy sources and their uses has been carried out on a large scale. Renewable energy sources have been used in the UK from many years. There are various renewable energy sources available to us, such as sun energy, wind, wave and tide energy and biomass. According to a new opinion poll, 84 percent of people favor the use of renewable energy.

We use many different technologies to harness energy. We currently have about 100,000 solar panel systems installed-10,000 more are being installed each year. We operate wind power plants and power stations fed by the sea's waves and tides. About 5 percent of the UK's electricity demand could be met by harnessing the tidal energy that exists within the Severn river estuary. We are also using hydro power plants and geothermal energy.

Cooperation with Poland
The EU has a leading role in securing a comprehensive international post-2012 agreement that will bring about global emissions reductions while supporting sustainable development and poverty reduction. A conference in Poznań this December will be a milestone in reaching an international agreement in Copenhagen in 2009.

We want Poznań to be a success. We are supporting and cooperating with the Polish government, as well as with national and local institutions, organizations and NGOs, exchanging best practice and solutions.

A dedicated Climate Change and Energy Unit was set up in the British embassy in Warsaw on April 1 to explore opportunities for UK-Polish cooperation on climate change and energy. Our staff engage with politicians, government, business leaders, NGOs, the media and academics to organize visits and exchanges of experts, to develop projects with Polish partners and to share UK know-how and best practice on low-carbon solutions.
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