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Paul Johnston

Ambassador to Ireland

Part of UK in Sweden

1st October 2013

Climate change: an economic opportunity

Just over a year ago on a warm August afternoon, I paid a call on the Environment Minister, Lena Ek.  She had an idea she wanted to share with the UK about the campaign for action on climate change.

Twelve months on, that idea has been launched as a major international effort in New York, just as the UN’s Climate Change panel (IPCC) has underlined the scale of the challenge with its fifth assessment report, published last week in Stockholm.

Lena Ek’s idea was an new assessment of the economic costs and benefits of tackling climate change, not least to show how decarbonisation of our economies could bring opportunities for business as well as costs.

The UK was positive to the idea and Sweden and we have now teamed up with Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Korea and Norway.

The New Climate Economy is the flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and will bring together a group of the world’s leading economists, policy and business experts to analyse and share the economic opportunities and risks that arise from climate change.

The project aims to give new, independent and expert insights on the debates around ‘green growth’.  Its starting point will not be climate change policy, but economic growth and development and the key economic priorities of governments, cities, businesses and investors.

We do not know what the final report will say.  And indeed that’s the point.  This will be an independent analysis of the evidence without pre-conceived views or conclusions.

The basis for its research programme will be the continuing need for growth and development in the world today.  It will focus on poverty reduction and job creation and the achievement of wider development priorities, including food security, energy access, urban planning, sustainable land use, natural resource efficiency, and cleaner air and water.

By consulting directly with, for example, finance ministries, business leaders, city mayors and major investors, the experts will analyse how the economic decisions affecting climate change are made.  The findings will be used to show how policy and investments can take climate risks and opportunities into account in a better way.

The report, to be published in September 2014, will make recommendations to governments and the private sector on how to achieve lower-carbon economic growth and development.

The New Climate Economy project aims to drive economic action and to inform global economic debate in the run-up to the UN Secretary General’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change in 2014, and the International Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.

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About Paul Johnston

Paul Johnston joined the UK Civil Service in 1990, working for the Ministry of Defence initially. He has served in Paris and New York and has also had a wide…

Paul Johnston joined the UK Civil Service in 1990, working for the Ministry of Defence initially.

He has served in Paris and New York and has also had a wide range of political and security roles in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Paul joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1993 as Desk Officer for Bosnia. As part of this role he was also Private Secretary to EU negotiator Lord Owen and his representative on Bosnia Contact Group.

His first foreign posting was to Paris in 1995-99 as Second Secretary Political. He was Private Secretary to the Ambassador and latterly part of the UK delegation to the Kosovo Rambouillet negotiations. Then he returned to London as Head of the Kosovo Policy Team, leading work on post-conflict policy in the EU, NATO, UN and G8.

Before his second overseas posting to New York in 2005, Paul held a variety of other EU policy and security appointments in London, such as Head of European Defence Section between 2000-01 and Head of Security Policy Department between 2002-04.

As Head of the Political Section in UKMIS New York, he advised on major policy issues for the UK on the Security Council and the UN World Summit, including the UK EU Presidency in 2005.

Paul returned to London in 2008 as Director, International Security for the FCO. He was responsible for policy on UN, NATO, European Security, arms control and disarmament, human rights and good governance.

Paul was British Ambassador to Sweden from August 2011 to August 2015 and then was Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO.

He was UK Ambassador to the EU for Political and Security affairs from 2017 to January 2020 and became Ambassador to Ireland in September 2020.