51 (146) 2021


What does it mean to act responsibly?

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Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Poland, Anna Clunes, talks exclusively to Contact Magazine Online about the implications of COP26 on British-Polish relations as governments around the world seek to deliver on their pledges made at the climate-change summit

The first week of COP26 saw some concrete pledges from world governments to reduce methane emissions, end deforestation and phase out coal as an energy source. China and other major producers of greenhouse gases could have done more, but essentially there is some progress, maybe not enough. How does the British government, as host of COP26, assess this year’s climate summit?

For the last year, my team and I have been travelling across Poland talking about climate change. Our message has been consistent. The COP26 summit would be the world’s last best chance to avoid uncontrolled temperature rises and to protect the planet for future generations. We have observed a growing consensus among Poles about the need to take action. We’ve seen lots of good action. But it has also been clear that every country, including Poland, needs to do more.















COP26 finished with a historic agreement – the Glasgow Climate Pact. Countries committed to phase down coal and support a just transition to a clean-energy future. After six years, COP26 finalised the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook, with a common timeframe and methodology for national commitments on emissions reductions, and clear rules for international carbon trading. Crucially, countries have been asked to revisit and strengthen their 2030 emissions reductions targets ahead of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh next year, ensuring we maintain crucial momentum on climate action this decade.

A further series of pledges at COP26 will drive transformative action on coal, cars, cash and trees:

  • On coal, 65 countries have committed to phase out the use of unabated coal to generate electricity by the 2030s for major economies, and by the 2040s for others, including Poland
  • All major coal financing countries have committed to end international coal finance by the end of 2021. There is now more work to be done to ensure all major emitters agree to phase out coal
  • On cars, over 30 countries – including Poland – and some of the world’s largest car-makers, committed to work together to make all new car sales zero emission globally by 2040, and by 2035 in leading markets
  • On trees, Poland joined more than 130 leaders, representing over 90% of the world’s forests, in pledging to end deforestation by 2030, backed by almost £14 billion of funding
  • And on cash, more public and private finance than ever before has been mobilised to support climate action in developing countries – the global financial system is aligning behind net zero. These bring us closer to meeting the $100 billion annual climate finance target next year, and to ensure we will exceed it after that.

As COP president Alok Sharma said: “we have kept 1.5C degrees alive. But its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.” The UK holds the COP presidency for the next 12 months and we will be working to ensure that countries not only put their pledges into action, but also push for enhanced commitments for COP27.

The UK itself has made significant progress in terms of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. What would you characterise as Britain’s biggest achievements – and what more is there still to do? How does the UK’s performance measure up to its Nationally Determined Contributions pledged at COP21 (the so-called Paris Agreement)? And how is Poland doing by those criteria?
There are a few statistics I keep coming back to that describe the UK’s progress to reduce emissions. Since 1990 we have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 44%. At the same time we have also grown our economy by 78%. But our ambition is high. In 2019 we committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the first major economy to do so. We have set a milestone to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030.

I have found that Polish friends are particularly interested by the UK’s progress on energy transformation. Since 1990, the UK has reduced its dependence on coal from over 70% to under 3% this year. We now have more offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world, and renewables now accounts for 43% of our electricity.

I welcome the progress Poland has made, and its commitments to go further. Its energy transition plan will reduce its current 70% dependence on coal to 11-28% by 2040. Poland signed up to important statements at COP26 on forestry, e-mobility and coal. We also hope Poland will submit a national emissions reductions strategy in 2022.

We look forward to working together on all these areas, from offshore wind and clean power, to electromobility and green finance.

What is the British Embassy in Warsaw doing in terms of diplomacy to encourage the Polish government to move faster and further along the road to net-zero emissions?

Our campaign here in Poland has focused on three main work streams.

We have been supporting Poland’s energy transition plans through the UK-Poland Clean Growth Partnership, agreed by our prime ministers in 2020.

We have worked closely with Poland to deliver global ambition at COP26, including learning lessons from their own experience as chair of COP24, COP19, and COP14.

And this year I’m really proud of our partnership with businesses, NGOs, think tanks, academics, youth organisations, cities and regions. My team has organised Business Race to Zero summits, a climate-themed science forum, webinars, online debates and even a climate documentary film festival.










I’m delighted that 12 Polish towns and cities have now joined Cities Race to Zero. Bravo to: Warsaw, Boguchwały, Cieszyń, Dzierżoniów, Koszalin, Kraków, Łódź, Piastów, Siemiatycze, Wałbrzych, Włocławek, Wrocław.

Four Polish entities – Eastern Wielkopolska, Koszalin, Wałbrzych, and energy entity ZE PAK – have joined the Powering Past Coal alliance, jointly chaired by the UK and Canada. There are also now seven Polish businesses in Business Race to Zero. This is about all of our futures. I hope all of BPCC’s members can join.

There is real momentum here in Poland. We have seen opinion polls showing that 80% of Poles are concerned about climate change. So we are going to keep working on all these areas in 2022 throughout our COP presidency – and beyond.
Poland’s national renewable energy programme includes significant investments in offshore wind. The UK has world-leading experience in this area. There are likely to be major Polish offshore-wind projects put out to competitive tender. Historically, however, British firms have not had a good track record in winning such tenders in Poland. What can be done to improve their chances?

Offshore wind is a key part of our clean-growth partnership. Poland’s offshore wind market offers significant business opportunities for UK companies. And given the UK’s experience, our companies have a lot to offer Poland. The British Embassy is actively working to increase the visibility of UK expertise, and to connect British the offshore wind supply chain with opportunities in Poland. We recently held a series of technical workshops on aspects of the offshore wind-farm project cycle. UK consultancies have successfully won business here. ODE and OWC are recent examples.

To be successful in Poland, UK exporters benefit from working with local partners who can offer local know-how. But it is also important that Polish legislation enables foreign companies to be able to invest and do business here on a fair, level playing field. I make that point regularly to Polish ministers. The advantages are clear – Polish projects benefit from best-in-class technology and the best companies with a track record of delivery in offshore wind.

Poland also sees nuclear energy as part of its non-fossil-fuel energy mix. Back in 2014, AMEC, a British firm, won a tender worth up to £255m to provide technical services to the nuclear-power subsidiary of the state-owned energy utility PGE. What has happened since? How do you see the future of Polish nuclear energy, and where could the UK contribute in terms of know-how?
Since they were awarded consultancy works for the Polish nuclear new-build programme, AMEC has undergone several mergers and acquisitions, and this contract is now owned by Jacobs Clean Energy. It continues to support the project as the owner’s engineer organisation for the first Polish nuclear power plant.

Like the UK, Poland sees nuclear as a vital part of its future low-carbon energy mix. The UK has good experience of developing and supplying civil nuclear programmes. Our specific skills include management of large-scale infrastructure projects, technical consultancy, safety and site licensing, full fuel-cycle capabilities, uranium enrichment, fuel manufacture, fuel processing, waste management and decommissioning. At the government level, we have been sharing our experience with Poland, including at a joint session at COP26.

The future of transport is now being shaped by severely disrupted demand, as well as the need to decarbonise transport. In this context how do you perceive the Polish government’s plans to build the Solidarity Transport Hub? Over a year ago, the UK government signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Polish government to cooperate on the STH project, reflecting keen interest from British industry. Do you think that this project still has potential for bilateral cooperation?

The STH is one of the EU’s largest green-field infrastructure projects. And its mix of railway and air-travel is compelling. UK companies have shown huge interest in engaging in it. Their experience in delivering complex projects really plays to the needs. As master planner, Arup will be carrying out STH’s assessment of current and future travel demand. UK companies are involved in providing legal advice to the project, integrated programme management and financial services.

The MOU gives us a structure to stay engaged, across several strands. We are interested in talking more with STH on decarbonising air travel, sharing the current UK government consultation on the Jet Zero strategy for the aviation sector to achieve net zero by 2050.

Finally, I wanted to celebrate the broader impact of UK firms on Poland’s evolving infrastructure and architecture. Earlier this year, the CEO of STH and I joined Krzysztof Górnicki of Foster and Partners at the top of the EU’s tallest building – and looked down on the Palace of Culture!















Reducing climate change is the responsibility of governments, businesses and individuals; for the two billion or so consumers in the rich world a shift in behaviour is required in terms of consumption, energy use and transportation, a shift which will affect people’s comfort and convenience. How should governments get across a message to their citizens to act responsibly in face of the climate-change threat?
Public awareness and concern about climate change is high. Recent polling showed that 80% of Poles are concerned about climate change, and in the UK 80% believe we will need to change the way we live to address climate change. So that means that people are looking for information.

Governments have a role in providing trusted, reliable advice to citizens on how to reduce their own carbon impact. The UK government website Simple Energy Advice (https://www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/) is a good example, which takes you through a series of questions and changes you can make on a personal basis.

Governments can also provide funding that help individuals make changes. In Poland that has supported many households to invest in photovoltaic panels, and to remove coal-burning stoves. In the UK, a new scheme is helping households to upgrade their boilers. There is massive investment in electric vehicles, which will get us to the point where an electric car will be the obvious choice for motorists.

This question is really the most sensitive in this interview – what changes are we making in our own lives, and what does it mean to act responsibly? I think that is an issue that we need to discuss openly. That’s a great challenge for us in the British Embassy to take into 2022 with our friends across Poland.

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