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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Archive for July, 2012

Games on!

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

It may have escaped your attention, but today, after a seven-year journey the world’s most extraordinary show finally arrives in London.

As the first city to host the Olympics three times (1908, 1948 and 2012), we are particularly proud to welcome the world to our country to explore our history, heritage, diversity, countryside and cities, against a backdrop of cultural performances and world-class sport.

In recent weeks much attention has been focused on security arrangements.  As David Cameron said this week, it’s the biggest security operation in Britain’s peacetime history.

The security is there to ensure the sportsmen and women of the world can pursue their excellence, individually and in teams at the Olympics and Paralympics.

The UK is the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and London 2012 is the first Games where the Olympics and Paralympics has been fully integrated from the outset, reflecting Britain’s determination that the Games will set new standards for services, facilities and opportunities for disabled people, and encourage more inclusive societies.  When Paralympian runner, South African Oscar Pistorius, runs in the Olympics, it will be a very significant moment.

We are using the power of the Games to connect young people with sport – 12 million children in 20 countries are already participating in the International Inspirational Programme. As an example, in India, trained community coaches are using sport to tackle a range of social issues, such as forced marriage for girls and truancy, as well as encouraging more children to attend school by improving the provision of physical education and sport.

London 2012 is the first Games to be truly green.  From the outset, the UK has been determined to ensure that environmental sustainability is reflected in every project, in design, construction, food, logistics, transport, waste disposal, technology, event management.  The Olympic Park is the first and largest new parkland in Europe for more than 150 years.  Construction has used the latest green technology with state-of-the-art building standards, and the Stadium is the lightest in Olympic history, containing less than 10,000 tonnes of steel.  Access to the Park will be by public transport, walking and cycling.  London is the first Summer Games to calculate its complete carbon footprint.  Sustainability is also about mixing the old with the new – over two thirds of the arenas are “recycled” classic British sporting venues such as Wimbledon and Wembley.

The London 2012 Olympic Games will be a magnificent spectacle of sport.  I wish Sweden’s athletes and other visitors to London and the other Games venues across the UK the best of luck!

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GAMES ON!

Friday, July 27th, 2012

It may have escaped your attention, but today, after a seven-year journey the world’s most extraordinary show finally arrives in London.

As the first city to host the Olympics three times (1908, 1948 and 2012), we are particularly proud to welcome the world to our country to explore our history, heritage, diversity, countryside and cities, against a backdrop of cultural performances and world-class sport.

In recent weeks much attention has been focused on security arrangements.  

As David Cameron said this week, it’s the biggest security operation in Britain’s peacetime history.

The security is there to ensure the sportsmen and women of the world can pursue their excellence, individually and in teams at the Olympics and Paralympics.

The UK is the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and London 2012 is the first Games where the Olympics and Paralympics has been fully integrated from the outset, reflecting Britain’s determination that the Games will set new standards for services, facilities and opportunities for disabled people, and encourage more inclusive societies.  

When Paralympian runner, South African Oscar Pistorius, runs in the Olympics, it will be a very significant moment.

We are using the power of the Games to connect young people with sport – 12 million children in 20 countries are already participating in the International Inspirational Programme. As an example, in India, trained community coaches are using sport to tackle a range of social issues, such as forced marriage for girls and truancy, as well as encouraging more children to attend school by improving the provision of physical education and sport.

London 2012 is the first Games to be truly green.  

From the outset, the UK has been determined to ensure that environmental sustainability is reflected in every project, in design, construction, food, logistics, transport, waste disposal, technology, event management.  

The Olympic Park is the first and largest new parkland in Europe for more than 150 years.  

Construction has used the latest green technology with state-of-the-art building standards, and the Stadium is the lightest in Olympic history, containing less than 10,000 tonnes of steel.  

Access to the Park will be by public transport, walking and cycling.  London is the first Summer Games to calculate its complete carbon footprint.  

Sustainability is also about mixing the old with the new – over two thirds of the arenas are “recycled” classic British sporting venues such as Wimbledon and Wembley.

The London 2012 Olympic Games will be a magnificent spectacle of sport.  I wish Sweden’s athletes and other visitors to London and the other Games venues across the UK the best of luck!

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Going with the wind

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

One of my memorable experiences in preparing for this job was visiting an offshore wind farm run by the Swedish energy company Vattenfall, memorable both because of the scale of the site, off the coast of Kent, but also because of the three metre waves we sailed through to visit it!

The point behind the visit was the scale of UK/Swedish co-operation on renewable energy. The UK today announced new commitments to support the growth of this sector, which could lead to large new opportunities for investment, including foreign investment.

Renewable energy generation is a vital low carbon technology with a central role to play in helping us reach our carbon emission reduction goals. It is also essential to our economic growth and energy security.

It reduces our reliance on imported fossil fuels, helps keep the lights on and our energy bills down. We have some of the best renewable resources anywhere in the world. We are one of the best places to invest in renewables. We have also legally committed to ensure that 15 per cent of our energy will come from renewable sources by 2020.
Today the Energy and Climate department is publishing the Government’s decision on the levels of financial support that will be available through the so-called Renewables Obligation (RO) for large-scale renewable electricity generators from 2013-17.

Since 2002, the RO has helped to bring about a five-fold increase in renewable electricity generation, from 1.8 per cent of total electricity generation in 2002 to 9.7 per cent by the end of 2011.

By the end of the first quarter of this year, renewable electricity capacity totalled 13GW, which is a 36 per cent increase on the same time last year.

Since April 2011 alone, industry has announced over £11.3bn of investment in the renewables sector, potentially supporting around 22,000 jobs up and down the country.
The Government’s decision today should help unlock new investments worth around £20-25 billion in today’s prices in the period 2013-17, and should deliver the kind of sustainable, long term growth and green jobs that we need to get the economy moving again.

It is not the Government’s policy to support renewables at any price. Our ultimate aim is for renewables to become competitive without the need for subsidy. Today’s package sends a strong signal to industry that we expect this to happen over time. To get this moving in the right direction, we are reducing support where it can be done while bringing on the deployment that we need from key technologies, such as offshore and onshore wind, to achieve our aims. The UK has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world and these will be key to the UK meeting its low carbon objectives. The new support levels will ensure that the UK remains the leading location in the world for offshore wind deployment.

Today’s decisions keep us on track to meet our legally binding 2020 renewable target. The detailed changes are on DECC’s website (www.decc.gov.uk).

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Balancing EU Competences

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Guest blog by Alison Thorpe, Chargé d’affaires, British Embassy Stockholm.

The summer is here, the sun is shining and the Ambassador is away. But it’s never quiet in politics.

Earlier today, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, launched in parliament a review of the balance of competences between the UK and the European Union. The review will be a thorough and detailed analysis of everything the EU does and how it affects the UK, following a commitment, under the coalition Programme for Government to examine the Balance of Competences between Britain and the EU.

That’s all very well, but what does it really mean? Does is mean, as the Daily Mail newspaper’s rather sensational headline put it this morning that “it’s about showing how the EU interferes in British life”?

Absolutely not! The Coalition Government is clear that membership of the EU is in the UK’s national interests. But Europe today confronts three urgent challenges:

First,  how to stay competitive in an increasing global market, generating growth and jobs for the citizens of the EU;

Secondly, how to ensure stability and growth in the Eurozone, which is vital to the UK’s own economic recovery ( did you know, for example that 40% of all UK exports are sold to the EU!) ;

and thirdly, the challenge of legitimacy: making sure that Europe remains relevant and credible to its citizens.

These challenges have prompted a lot of well publicised discussion in Britain about whether UK interests would be better served by us leaving the EU. The answer is, quite clearly, that they wouldn’t. But the fact that we are even having this debate is evidence that we need to deepen public and parliamentary understanding of the nature of the EU membership and provide a constructive and serious contribution to the wider European debate about modernising, reforming and improving the EU in the face of the collective challenges we all face.

Such a review cannot be a rush job. It is important that we take a thorough and comprehensive look at all the issues. So the review will continue through 2014.

And who is going to conduct the review? Well the short answer is we all are. Back in the UK, Government departments will undertake the review for the areas of EU competence for which they are responsible. For example, the Department for the Environment, food and rural affairs will be responsible for conducting the review on the EU’s competence on Fisheries, and will be jointly responsible with the Department for Energy and Climate Change for the EU’s competence on the Environment.

But the review will also be an outward facing exercise. The British government will be consulting and inviting evidence from everyone with a knowledge of and interest in the exercise of the EU’s competences, including, of course, committees of Parliament and the devolved administrations but also businesses, civil society, other interested parties and individuals with expertise in and experience of each area. So  we will be equally interested to hear from car manufacturers about EU product standards, as from NGOs about EU environmental policies, or security experts about combating organised crime.

But this isn’t just for those who live in the UK. We will also be inviting our European and G20 partners, as well as the EU institutions and other international bodies, think tankers, journalists, basically anyone who has an opinion, to contribute evidence if they wish. At the end of the review all the evidence given will be made publicly available and will be shared with our partners. After all the analysis we produce may be of use and interest to other EU member states its citizens.

In the meantime, do keep an eye out for further updates on www.fco.gov.uk and if you have views that you would like to contribute, then I would encourage you to do so.  And if you want to read a far more articulate blog on this subject than mine, do please check out the one for David Lidington, Minister for Europe on  http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/davidlidington/2012/07/12/reviewing-the-balance-of-competences-between-the-uk-and-eu/

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Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
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