UK special representative for climate change promotes low-carbon economy

David King  Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I am delighted to be back in Taiwan for what will actually be my final overseas visit as the U.K. Special Representative for Climate Change. Much has changed since my last visit here in 2014: The world is more resolute in its determination to tackle the threat of climate change but also more optimistic about the opportunities that the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy will create.

During the November 2016 Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh, the focus of the international community centred on implementation of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement. And it was clear from the discussions that innovation will have an essential role to play.

The U.K. is playing a leading role in international efforts to drive forward innovation in clean energy technologies. As members of the $30 billion per annum Mission Innovation Initiative, we will work together with our partners to invest in clean energy research and development in transformative energy; to deliver future energy solutions that are clean, affordable and reliable.

In the U.K. we are already reaping the benefits of early investment into our own low carbon sector: a sector now worth over 46 billion pounds across more than 90,000 businesses. The sector directly employs more than 240,000 people in the U.K. and directly supports many more. Today the global low carbon economy is estimated to be worth more than US$5 trillion and over the next 15 years it is estimated around US$90 trillion will be invested in the world’s energy systems, land use and urban infrastructure.

In Taiwan, I am encouraged to see that green energy is one of the core innovative industries of the future that the current Democratic Progressive Party administration is focussed on developing as a central plank of its economic policy. Tomorrow I will visit Tainan to learn first hand about plans to develop the Shalun Green Energy Science City project. I hope to learn more about plans for research into energy storage, smart grids and clean energy technologies. Encouraging innovation in smart grids and energy storage technologies to match demand with supply is not a challenge that Taiwan is alone in facing and I hope to use my trip to explore how the U.K. and Taiwan might work together on this and other areas related to energy innovation.

But aside from discussions about energy technology, I also hope to be able to share U.K. policy expertise. When I last came to Taiwan, I had discussions with policy makers here about the value of the U.K.’s 2008 Climate Change Act in galvanizing our Government’s efforts to tackle the U.K.’s own emissions and to make the case for Taiwan to consider a similar piece of legislation. When Taiwan passed its own Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act in 2015, you took an important step forward. And I am encouraged to learn that Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration has drawn up draft Guidelines on Climate Change Action covering adaptation and more crucially mitigation. Under current plans, once agreed, the plan will then be reviewed on a five yearly basis to assess progress towards the objective of reducing Taiwan’s emissions to 50 percent of their 2005 level by 2050. I look forward to learning more about these plans during my visit.

Under the U.K.’s Climate Change Act, we committed to reduce our emissions by at least 80 percent of the 1990 level by 2050. We have made considerable progress towards this objective and U.K. emissions were 38 percent below their 1990 level in 2015. An important tool to help us meet this long term target in a structured manner has been the five-yearly carbon budgets that our Government has set. We met the target for the first of these in 2012 and, according to the independent committee on climate change that monitors progress towards the Climate Change Act’s 2050 target, the U.K. is on course to outperform on the second (2013 to 2017) and third (2018 to 2022) of these carbon budgets. I look forward to sharing some of this experience during my discussions in Taiwan this week.

Of course, to make such significant reductions in the U.K.’s carbon emissions requires some significant investment in clean energy infrastructure.

Taiwan’s administration has recently committed to increasing renewable energy from the current 4 percent to 20 percent of the energy mix by 2025. We welcome this ambitious commitment to invest in new solar and wind power capacity. We have much to share in particular in relation to offshore wind where the U.K. has the largest installed capacity anywhere in the world. So I am delighted that also with me in Taiwan this week are members of a U.K. offshore wind mission, comprising 12 leading U.K. companies. They will meet key Taiwanese stakeholders in offshore wind, including the Taiwan Wind Energy Association and their members, to discuss the potential for future business collaboration in this area between our two markets.

Our experience in developing and implementing policies to tackle our own emissions as well as the commercial expertise of U.K. companies in the clean energy sector are areas in which we already have close collaboration and cooperation with Taiwan. My second visit to Taiwan is part of the process of continuing that dialogue and to strengthen the partnership between the U.K. and Taiwan on climate change and energy.There is much we can learn from each other and as we work towards fulfilling the commitments we have made to tackle climate change.

We do so, not only because it is the right thing for our environment, but also because of the benefits that the transition to a low carbon economy will bring in laying the foundations for our future prosperity.

Sir David King is a U.K. special representative for climate change