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The Warsaw Voice » Other » October 14, 2009
Britain in Poland
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Going for Green Growth
October 14, 2009   
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Britain's ambassador to Poland, Ric Todd, talks to Ewa Hancock.

You've been in Poland for two years now. What is your experience of Poland? How well do you think Poland is coping with the economic crisis?
I am delighted to be in Poland and I really enjoy living and working here. Partly because I feel like a ryba w wodzie-a fish in water-here. Partly because this is still a country in transition; developing and changing so fast. I lived and worked in Central Europe before 1989 and I never cease to admire the fantastic progress Poland and the rest of Central Europe has made in 20 years and the stresses and problems society has endured and overcome. I am sure that there can be fewer better places to be a British ambassador.

The politics, economics and business are fascinating; Poles are open and friendly; UK-Polish relations at all levels are excellent and getting even better; Britain and Poland share interests and a swiatopogl±d-their view of the world. The fact that Poles want to think about and discuss history is a constant pleasure for me. And after two years here, Poles tell me I have less of a Slovak accent.

[He was British ambassador to Slovakia from 2001 to 2004-ED.]
No country can escape the consequences of the present global crisis. The prosperity of Poland-like that of Britain-depends to a considerable degree on the prosperity of its partners in Europe. Downturn in Germany, for example, clearly has a major effect on Poland. But it is impressive how Poland has avoided recession, pointing to some of the underlying strengths in the Polish economy. I would also say that one reason why Poland's economy has coped is that Poles are resilient, not least because anyone much over the age of 30 has a personal memory of a real economic, social and political crisis. I am optimistic about Poland's prospects-as I am about Britain's.

Are there visible signs of Britain emerging from the recession?
There are. Independent forecasters have all been coming to the same conclusion, that the British economy will start to grow at the turn of this year and we will see modest growth next year. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimates the sharp period of recession to be over, with output stabilising. UK business surveys, which are often seen as leading indicators to the official GDP data, have improved in recent months. Activity in the services and manufacturing sectors is now expanding for the first time in over a year. Surveys from the British Chamber of Commerce and Confederation of British Industry suggest an improvement in business optimism.

There are also signs of improvement in the international economy, with both the French and German economies growing by 0.3 percent in the second quarter of 2009. With around half of the UK's trade in the euro area, this is obviously encouraging news for UK manufacturers and exporters.

Can you say a few words about the British government's environmental protection program?
Promoting a low-carbon, high-growth global economy is one of the top priorities for the British government, both domestically and in our foreign policy. Transforming the country into a cleaner, greener and more prosperous place to live is at the heart of our economic plans. We have come a long way already. In 2007, UK greenhouse gas emissions were 18 percent below 1990 levels-a long way ahead of our actual commitment to reduce greenhouse gases to 12.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. When purchases of emission reductions from overseas are included, for example through the EU Emissions Trading System, UK net greenhouse gas emissions were 21 percent below 1990 levels-equivalent to cutting emissions entirely from four cities the size of London.

We remain realistic but ambitious. To give two examples: first, the Climate Change Act, which became law in the UK in November 2008, making the UK the first country in the world to have a legally binding long-term framework to cut emissions, adapt to climate change, and commit to a low-carbon economy. It reflects our commitment to making the transition towards a low-carbon economy in the UK. The Act enshrines in law some of the world's most ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reductions: an 80 percent cut on 1990 levels by 2050. It demonstrates strong UK leadership, offering action as well as vision, and signals that we are committed to taking our share of responsibility for reducing global emissions.

The second initiative is the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, published in July 2009. This plan sets out how the UK will achieve a cut in emissions of 34 percent on 1990 levels by 2020. By 2020:
- More than 1.2 million people will be in green jobs;
- 7 million homes will have benefited from whole-house energy efficiency makeovers, and more than 1.5 million households will be supported to produce their own clean energy;
- Around 40 percent of electricity will be from low-carbon sources, from renewables, nuclear and clean coal;
- We will be importing half the amount of gas that we otherwise would;
- The average new car will emit 40 percent less carbon than now.
We think that the Transition Plan is the most systematic response to climate change of any major developed economy, and sets the standard for others in the run-up to the crucial global climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

Is the UK cooperating with Poland in this area?
Yes. There is regular dialogue between the UK and Poland at both ministerial and official level on EU and bilateral climate change issues. It is certainly a major topic in my conversations with Polish partners. We want to work closely with Poland. Following agreement on the 2020 Package in December 2008, our focus is now on agreeing an ambitious EU position for COP15 Copenhagen in December, where the world will agree a post-Kyoto climate framework.

Cooperation is more than words. The British embassy opened a dedicated Climate Change and Energy Unit on April 1, 2008 with the objective of promoting a low-carbon, high-growth economy within Poland as a means for prosperity, economic growth and energy security. The unit's work involves cooperation and engagement with individuals and organisations across Poland-politicians, government, business leaders, NGOs, media and academics. They organise visits to and from the UK, support exchange of knowledge and expertise and work on projects to promote low-carbon solutions with partners including UKIE, demosEuropa, the Ministry of the Environment, the Institute of Sustainable Development, the Foundation for Development of Polish Agriculture and the Centre for Citizenship Education.

Which are the leading British companies present on the Polish market when it comes to saving energy?
There are many good examples of British companies operating in Poland in an energy-efficient manner. Among these are: GlaxoSmithKline, which reduced energy consumption at its plant in Poznań by over 10 percent in the period 2006-2008 and is working towards a further 5 percent reduction this year; Tesco, which has six 'energy efficient stores' in Poland, with its model store in Zdzieszowice using solar panels, wind turbines and heat pumps to save around 20 percent on energy use and 40 percent on gas annually, leading to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 40 tonnes per year; there are also several companies in the construction industry that specialise in sustainable construction and energy efficient materials: Ove Arup, whose range of services covers building design, zero-carbon development, renewable energy, low-carbon technologies, sustainability assessments, policy and planning advice; Buro Happold, which deals with project management and environmentally-friendly construction design; and Pilkington, a construction and automotive glass manufacturer, which manufactures the widest range of self-cleaning solar control products on the market.

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