Why the UK thinks low carbon growth is important


I am the Minister of State in the British Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). My department leads on climate change issues for the UK. Ahead of my visit to Kenya this week, I would like to share with you why the UK thinks low carbon growth is important and to share some of the experiences from the UK in creating partnerships, which help achieve low carbon growth.

I do not need to tell anyone in Africa that climate change is a global problem and that access to energy is key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The drought and famine in the Horn last year was partly a result of a change in weather patterns resulting from global warming and climate change.

Farmers and pastoralists across East Africa can no longer predict when or how much rain will fall. The UK was at the forefront of the humanitarian response, and through UKaid we continue to support programmes that aim to provide resilience to those affected.

But those communities remain vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Building resilience and adaptive capacity in Africa is a current and pressing need. Whilst the UK is working with our partners in East Africa to help fill this adaptation deficit, this gap will never be filled and the impacts will only worsen, unless we can mitigate climate change. To do this, we need to make better use of low carbon sources of energy.

We are trying to do just that in Britain. The UK is already the world’s sixth largest market in low carbon and environmental goods and services. We are the world leaders in offshore wind farms – our total installed capacity is as much as the rest of the world put together. Growth in our low carbon energy sector has increased by an average of 4.4 percent every year since 2008.

We are keen to share our own experiences and to listen and learn from others so that together we can help mitigate the impacts that climate change is, and will continue to have in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
That is why I am delighted to be heading up the largest ever Green Growth Mission to visit Kenya. With me will be a delegation of around 20 UK experts, drawn from three main sectors.

Firstly there are some of the UK’s leading renewable energy developers. The UK has some of the best research facilities in the world, producing more Nobel Prize winners than any other country apart from the USA. I am bringing this expertise and innovation to Kenya, people with key skills and knowledge who are keen to partner, to help create a sustained flow of green technology transfer. That is my first objective.

Secondly, a group of experts from the UK’s financial services sector will join me, to look at investment opportunities in the low carbon sector. London is still the leading financial centre in the world, and we are harnessing that comparative advantage to breathe life into overseas investment in low carbon growth. Creating investment partnerships in green energy is my second objective.

Thirdly specialists from the insurance industry will be with me. This is because new technology is, by its very nature, new to the business infrastructure. We therefore need specialists to nurture and develop these new industries. That includes specialists in green industry, as without insurance no business is able to flourish. As my third objective I hope to support them seeking opportunities to underpin the technological and investment elements of this mission.

So my overall goal is to meet with government, science communities, and business, to explore how together we can develop well-rounded partnerships in sustainable and green energy solutions in this region.

There are many opportunities for strong partnerships in low carbon growth in the countries I am visiting. Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia all have huge potential to be key players in the growing global market for low carbon environmental goods and services – a market currently estimated to be worth £3.2 trillion (US$5.2 trillion) and projected to be worth more than £4 trillion (US$6.5 trillion) by 2015.

Kenya has a large and well developed geothermal industry with the capacity to produce enough renewable energy to power its own and its neighbours’ needs. Africa’s largest wind farm, the Lake Turkana project, is scheduled to be operational by 2014. Kenya has set out a clear path for its growth in Vision2030. Renewable energy plays a key part in that, so ensuring that growth is sustainable. We are committed to further UK investment as part of the strong UK-Kenya partnership to help deliver that Vision.

From Geothermal, Wind and Solar to innovative financial solutions and insurance products, carbon finance, sustainable construction, urban planning, and energy and carbon management – UK firms have significant expertise in supplying global technological and service solutions and supporting the private sector in East Africa to make significant progress in developing and distributing these solutions. Not only will partnerships being discussed during the mission benefit East African countries directly by helping provide reliable sources of energy, but they will also benefit the rest of the world.

(Barker is the British Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change).

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