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Paul Johnston

Ambassador to Ireland

18th November 2020 Dublin, Ireland

UK: Climate Ambitions and Action

The UK and Ireland both have ambitious climate plans, we both want to be carbon neutral by 2050 and invest in our economies to build back better from COVID-19. As part of the UK’s drive to mobilise climate ambition in the year to COP26, the Prime Minister today announced our plans to promote a Green Industrial Revolution.

The Prime Minister’s plan will mobilise £12 billion of government investment, leveraging up to three times as much private investment by 2030, and supporting up to 250,000 jobs. It targets economic recovery from COVID-19 through investment in green technologies and industries. Covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovation technologies, this plan will enable the UK to forge ahead in tackling climate change by delivering its target of Net Zero by 2050 and building back better.

This builds on the UK’s track record on climate: from £5bn already announced to deliver a domestic Green Recovery from COVID-19, to the UK’s world-leading Net Zero legislation and an £11.6bn commitment for International Climate Finance.  It also demonstrates the UK’s leadership on climate action ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit we will co-host to mark the Paris Agreement five-year anniversary on 12th December this year and next year’s crucial COP26 in Glasgow.

The plan has ten elements:

  1. Offshore wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.
  2. Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, developing the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
  3. Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.
  4. Electric vehicles: Ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 – ten years earlier than planned – with hybrid cars to follow in 2035, and transforming the UK’s national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles. This will put the UK on course to be the first G7 country to decarbonise road transport.
  5. Public transport, cycling and walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future.
  6. Jet Zero and greener maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonise industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.
  7. Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
  8. Carbon capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today.
  9. Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.
  10. Innovation and finance: Developing cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the London the global centre of green finance.

The UK government is thus committing to a Green Recovery and to “green collar” jobs, underlining the belief that low-carbon growth will be the most effective and sustainable form of recovery and that the old trade-offs between cutting emissions and growing the economy no longer apply. We’ve shown this in practice: between 1990 and 2018, the UK reduced emissions by 43% while the economy grew by 75%. We will continue to grow our economy by greening it.

The UK’s example shows that the climate crisis is not just a moral and environmental challenge: it is also an economic opportunity. The economics have changed since the last global financial crisis and low carbon technology is often cheaper:

– The cost of electric vehicles is falling rapidly and is expected to be cheaper than petrol cars over their lifetime by around 2022, and cheaper upfront by the mid-2020s;

– Two-thirds of the world’s population now live in countries where renewables represent the cheapest source of new power generation as the “levelised” global cost of solar, on-shore and off-shore wind has fallen in the past decades;

– The International Renewable Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that solar PV is now the cheapest form of electricity we’ve ever had – and is set to get much cheaper;

– IEA also reports that boosting investment in renewables, could increase jobs in the sector to 42 million globally by 2050 (nearly four times more than today);

– They demonstrate that a ‘Sustainable Recovery Plan’ to tackle the current crisis could boost global economic growth by 1.1 percentage points and save or create roughly 9 million jobs a year, each year for the next three years;

–  They also estimate that every $1 spent on the energy transition would bring benefits of between $3 and $8 – that translates to cleaner air, cheaper power, investment, jobs and opportunity.

As we recover from the pandemic, we owe it to future generations to base our recovery on solid foundations, including a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy. Every country now faces a choice: between laying the foundations for sound, sustainable and inclusive growth or locking in polluting emissions for decades to come.  Ireland, like Britain, is making the right choice: to rise to the greatest challenge of our age: protecting our planet for future generations.

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.