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Friday, March 27th, 2015

Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today.

In 2015, England marks two major anniversaries. It will be 800 years since Magna Carta was sealed, and 750 years since the formation of the first English parliament.

Anyone who is interested in seeing the document that has been described as England’s greatest export need only visit the British Library, where not one but two copies are on display in a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.

Embedded in the rule of law in over 100 countries, Magna Carta established for the first time that everyone, even the king, had to obey the law.

The document inspired early American settlers, with its principles echoed in the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights; it has been used to argue for freedom of the press; and for extending the vote to ordinary people and to women.

It is also the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Written after the atrocities of World War II, this declaration states that people around the world are protected by fundamental human rights, regardless of their citizenship, race, gender or beliefs. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that the Declaration may well become ‘the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere’.

Events are taking place around the UK to celebrate the anniversary of the Great Seal being placed on the document at Runnymede, in southern England, in June 1215.

The UK’s stable and prosperous democracy is among the legacies of Magna Carta.

But democracy and human rights are not a given in many parts of the world, including in some parts of Europe. This year’s Human Rights and Democracy Report by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office highlighted Russia and Belarus as ‘countries of concern’, for instance, and drew attention to the significant deterioration in human rights in those parts of eastern Ukraine under separatist control and in Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia a year ago this month.

The second great English export has to be a sport – but which one? Sports that can trace their origins to England include cricket, rugby and football.

Rugby draws its name from Rugby School in Warwickshire, where, legend has it, schoolboy William Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a football match and ran with it in 1823.

This year, the Rugby World Cup comes to England. Twenty teams from six continents will compete to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup on 31 October at Twickenham, the home of English rugby.

And it was at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London where the rules of association football were first standardised.

Representatives of football clubs and schools met in the pub, near Covent Garden, and over the course of six meetings in autumn and winter 1863 they codified a definitive set of rules.  (The delegation from Rugby School preferred their version, and went their own way!)  From these humble beginnings, football spread across the globe and is now the most popular sport in the world.

The third great English export has to be the English language, which is now spoken by many times more people than the 53 million who live in England itself.

It is the language in which Shakespeare wrote, and The Beatles sang.  And now it is the number one language on the world wide web, which was itself invented by English computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

English language and English literature are now taught to hundreds of millions of school children around the world.

St George’s Day – the day when Englad celebrates its patron saint – falls on 23 April. By an extraordinary coincidence, it’s also the day on which three of our greatest poets – Rupert Brooke, William Wordsworth and Shakespeare himself – all died.  So perhaps you’ll be inspired to think of England, and its extraordinary contribution to global law and culture, over the next few weeks.

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Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Deputy Head of Mission, Aidan Liddle, guest blogs today. Aidan arrived in Sweden July 2014 having previously worked for the FCO in Islamabad, Brussels and various postings in London.

Since I arrived in Sweden in July I’ve been keen to visit Malmö and Lund.  I finally got my chance last week – and I’d picked a wonderful spring day to go.  I met some fascinating people who were generous enough to share their insights into local, national and European politics, and had a very interesting morning hearing from some of the people in the City Council who are working to improve economic and social opportunities for the citizens of Malmö.

Of course, a crucial part of that strategy is to capitalise on the links with Malmö’s twin city across the Öresund, and I was joined for some of the day by colleagues from our Embassy in Copenhagen to discuss how we can make the most of the opportunities to build our relationship with this cross-border region.  It’s increasingly common that integrated economic areas can develop across borders, but it takes time for political structures to follow.  (In many ways that’s a metaphor for the European Union, but that’s probably for another blog….)

I made a similar trip to Gothenburg in November, to learn more about the centuries-old links between that city and the UK and to look for opportunities to strengthen them today.  Both visits have reminded me that it’s such an important part of a diplomat’s job to get out of the capital and get to know the country.  Stockholm’s a wonderful city, and of course it’s the seat of the national government offices and the Riksdag, who are amongst our main customers.  But it’s also not the whole story.  So we do try and look for opportunities to get out and about.  Gothenburg and Malmö tend to be our main destinations, as Sweden’s second and third largest cities, because they have important political and economic roles and (luckily for us) excellent and active British Honorary Consuls to help us.  But the Ambassador has paid really useful and stimulating visits to Luleå and Uppsala in recent months too, and we’re always in the market for ideas that will take us to parts of the country we don’t usually get to.

Of course, that’s true of any country, including the UK.  London’s one of the world’s great cities.  But it’s not the whole story either.  Next time you visit, I’d urge you to add a day or two in Edinburgh or Manchester or Bristol or Oxford, and get a bit of a flavour of what’s going on in the rest of the country.  Even if you know London well, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Monday, March 16th, 2015

A year ago, the Kremlin helped stage an illegal and illegitimate “referendum” in Crimea that culminated in Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine, redrawing the map of Europe by force, and deepening the burgeoning crisis in east Ukraine.  Britain and Sweden have been working closely on all aspects of the crisis and that remains the case today, one year on. Much has been said and much has been written. One year on, it’s important to remember the basic rights and wrongs at stake.

The so-called Crimea referendum, hastily prepared in just two weeks, was a mockery of democracy. There were no independent, international monitors. Instead elite Russian troops – the “little green men”, as locals labelled them – enforced President Putin’s will on the ground. We should not be under any illusions about the origin of these fighters. Their kit, their accents and their training all showed them to be Russian, even if their identifying insignia had been stripped.

In the run up to the so-called referendum, Ukrainian terrestrial television stations were shut off in Crimea and anyone who spoke out against Russia’s military occupation faced intimidation and threats. Since then, several have disappeared and others have been found dead, one showing signs of torture.

All of this was done under the false claim from the Russian leadership that the rights of Russian-speakers in Crimea were under threat from Kyiv. This cynical ploy bore no credence whatsoever.

In fact, just last week Vladimir Putin admitted in an interview that he planned the annexation of Crimea weeks before the sham referendum took place. All the while, he was telling the international community that he was not considering the possibility of Crimea joining Russia and denying the presence of Russian troops.

We know that there was never any threat to Russian speakers in Crimea or any other part of Ukraine. Shortly before the annexation, the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities said there was “no evidence of any violence or threats”.

In reality, reports by the United Nations, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights have made clear that it was only after Russian occupation that human rights came under threat in Crimea.  The effects have been especially felt by Crimea’s ethnic minorities such as the sizeable Crimean Tatar community.

It is vital that the significance of Crimea’s annexation is not downplayed. Russia’s aggressive actions there and in the Donbas are not only a threat to Ukraine but also to the rest of Europe.

By annexing Ukraine’s land, violating its territorial integrity, and destabilising east Ukraine with a steady supply of troops and weaponry Russia has challenged the 21st century democratic order and ripped up the international rulebook.

These actions are a flagrant violation of a number of Russia’s international commitments, including under the UN Charter, the OSCE Helsinki Final Act and the 1997 Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet with Ukraine. This is why Russia has been isolated in the Security Council and in the wider international community.

As a result, all EU member states must rise to the challenge that Russia’s actions pose to our shared values and our common security. No country, however large, can flout international norms and not face the consequences.

We must not accept Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea as a new reality. The facts remain that this was an illegal act, Crimea remains occupied and its most vulnerable citizens are bearing the brunt of Russia’s illiberal policies.

The sad reality is that if Russia had not occupied Crimea last year and forced its people to vote at the point of a gun, people in Crimea would today be going about their business peacefully, as for the last 23 years, without the intimidation, hardship and physical danger that comes with illegal Russian annexation.

There is a way out of this situation. Russia can still withdraw its troops from Crimea and eastern Ukraine, abide by its commitments under the Minsk agreements and let the Ukrainian people get on with running their own country.

But until this happens, we will not ignore what has taken place in Crimea. Our established position, just like that of Sweden’s, is firm – Crimea’s annexation is unacceptable, and we will continue to defend our values with sanctions that punish those responsible for taking Crimea from Ukraine.

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Friday, February 6th, 2015

In June 2014, the European Union committed to moving towards an Energy Union that delivers secure, competitive and sustainable energy to consumers and companies as well as pushing Europe to becoming a global leader in renewable energy.

The next few weeks will see concrete plans for the Energy Union take shape, with the first senior meeting taking place today in Riga.

Creating a fully functioning internal energy market is vital for growth in the EU and will also help the EU reach its ambitious climate goals. Meeting these goals is critical for our economies and for the planet. To get there we need not only to promote renewables, but also other low carbon sources of energy.

Today the energy mix varies greatly between member states, partly because of different policy choices over the years, but also due to differences in distribution of natural resources across Europe. For example Sweden gets 45 % of its energy from hydro-power, whereas in the UK that’s only around 2 %.

To be able to meet our climate targets together, it is crucial that the Energy Union allows member states to choose what energy mix works best for them to efficiently lower their emissions, including many different kinds of low carbon energy sources.

Sub-regional approaches within the Energy Union, eg by the Nordics and/or Baltic states, should, we think, be supported where they can add value, for instance where acting regionally can pilot new approaches on a smaller scale.

The Energy Union must also strengthen the EU’s energy security to avoid damaging energy shortages and to stop Member States being subject to political pressure as third states seek to exploit Partners’ dependency on non-EU sources.

This can all be accomplished through greater transparency concerning energy agreements and, where appropriate, by providing support to member states in their negotiation of gas and other contracts.

Improving energy infrastructure and maximising supply diversity will also lead to a more secure supply.

Last but not least, we need to encourage innovation. Supporting innovative thinking will lead to cost-effective solutions and create greater prosperity.

So as leaders from across Europe meet in Riga today, the creation of an Energy Union that promotes efficiency, guarantees security and promotes innovative thinking will rightly be at the top of the agenda. If this can be achieved, it will lead to a more prosperous, secure and energy responsible Europe, good for us and for our shared planet.

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Thursday, February 5th, 2015

[UK Ambassador Paul Johnston delivered this speech at Svenskt Näringsliv’s security seminar on 5 February 2015.]

It’s a great pleasure to be asked to address Svenskt Näringsliv’s security forum on the sadly topical question of radicalisation and terrorism.

I’ll talk about my Government’s existing strategy and the draft Counter Terrorism and Security legislation working its way through Parliament.

But I also want to reflect on the wider problem, and talk a little about how the UK and Sweden can work together.


On 7 July 2005 four British men detonated four bombs on the transport network in London, killing themselves and 52 innocent people.

On 11 December 2010 a Swedish man detonated a bomb in central Stockholm, by sheer good fortune killing only himself.

On 22 July 2011 a Norwegian man detonated a bomb in central Oslo before going on a shooting spree at a nearby summer camp, killing 77 people.

And on 7 January this year two French men walked into newspaper offices in Paris armed with automatic weapons and killed 12 people. The same week four people will killed in a kosher supermarket in Paris.

As you know, there have been many others, such as the attacks in New York, Madrid and Boston.

There is a common thread. All of these were home grown attacks. British, Swedish, Norwegian and French citizens driven to such extremes of hate that they wanted nothing more than to murder those they lived amongst.

Their goal was and is political. Targeted or indiscriminate, successful or not, by definition they spread terror. Their effect is disproportionate. They are unmatched in their ability to disrupt our lives, and indeed, if we are careless in our response, to alter our way of life. That is their goal – to silence our free speech, indeed to limit our basic freedoms.

And the threat is increasing. It is also becoming more complex and the actors both more brutal and more sophisticated than ever before.

Since the start of the Syria conflict and in particular since the advance of the so-called Islamic State, the concept of “foreign fighters” has entered our vocabulary.

Around 600 young people have travelled from the UK to Iraq and Syria for possible terrorist purposes. Sweden faces at least a similar challenge: up to 300 people have travelled from here to the Middle East.

So, as Lenin said, what is to be done?

For my government, it’s paramount to see the issue in the round.

The UK’s counter terrorism strategy, known as CONTEST, aims to protect all those law-abiding citizens that believe in keeping the UK an open, free and tolerant nation.

It is based on four strands.

We work to prevent people being radicalised and drawn into violent extremism.

We use every lawful means to pursue those who would do us harm and to disrupt their plans.

We protect our people, buildings and infrastructure.

And we prepare for the worst with robust contingency plans.

I focus on the first two strands in particular.

The Prevent strategy responds to the ideological challenge we face from terrorism and aspects of extremism, and the threat we face from those who promote such views.

It provides practical help to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure they are given appropriate advice and support.

And it works with a wide range of sectors (including education, criminal justice, faith, charities and health) where there are risks of radicalisation that we need to deal with.

The strategy covers all forms of terrorism, including far-right extremism, of which Sweden has also had experience. It involves a number of practical measures to protect vulnerable people from the damaging influence of extremists. As in Sweden, the safeguarding of individuals and society underpins this strand of work.

Where necessary, we have prevented apologists for terrorism and extremism from travelling to the UK to preach their hatred.

As part of this effort, we give guidance and support to local authorities and institutions to understand the threat from extremism and the statutory powers available to them to challenge extremist speakers.

A specialist police unit works to remove illegal terrorist material from the internet.

And we support community based campaigns and activity which can effectively rebut terrorist and extremist propaganda and offer alternative views to our most vulnerable target audiences.

We support people who are at risk of being drawn into terrorist activity through what we call the Channel process, which involves agencies working together to give individuals access to services such as health and education, specialist mentoring and diversionary activities

There is a good reason why prevent is the first “P” in the CONTEST strategy. It is safer, cheaper, and in the long run much more effective to prevent people being drawn into extremism in the first place rather than waiting to tackle them when they pose a threat.

But of course radicalisation still takes place, and that is where the Pursue strategy comes in.

The purpose of Pursue is to stop terrorist attacks in the UK and against our interests overseas. This means detecting and investigating threats at the earliest stage, disrupting terrorist activity before it can endanger the public and, wherever possible, prosecuting those responsible.

The government’s preferred approach to dealing with terrorists is to prosecute them whenever possible  and in the case of foreign nationals, we will aim to prosecute and deport them.

Unfortunately it is sometimes the case that a terrorist suspect cannot be prosecuted. This might be because the evidence against them is based on intelligence, and cannot be revealed in court. Or the police might have to step in to prevent an attack in order to protect the public before a full evidential basis for a prosecution can be built.

In such cases the Pursue strategy provides a number of tools to protect the public. We can exclude foreign nationals from the UK and deprive dual nationals of their British nationality, preventing them from travelling to the UK to do harm. We can deport foreign nationals to their countries of origin and control the movements and activities of those suspected of posing the most serious threat.

All of these tools are subject to rigorous judicial oversight and are consistent with national and international human rights obligations.

But as the threat evolves, so must our response. The UK is thus clear that new legislation is required to stop people travelling to fight for terrorist organisations and subsequently returning to the UK; and to deal decisively with those already there who pose a risk.

Therefore on 26 November the Government introduced a new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill to Parliament to help deal with the threat. It reflects the sad reality of the new challenges we face, particularly from so called foreign fighters.

Firstly, therefore we need to be able to disrupt the plans of individuals to travel to Syria and Iraq, and to return at will to the UK to potentially do harm to their fellow citizens.

Our new legislation will provide the police with power to seize a passport at the border for a temporary period, during which the authorities can investigate the individual concerned.

It will also create a Temporary Exclusion Order that can temporarily stop the return to the UK of a British citizen suspected of involvement in terrorist activity abroad. It is important to note that this is about safely managing the return of an individual to the UK. It is not about rendering a British citizen stateless.

Secondly, we need to be able to manage the threat posed by those already in the UK. To this end the legislation will enhance existing Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, including stronger constraints on the movements of those subject to them.

The proposed legislation like our existing laws is, of course, consistent with all our existing international legal obligations. Exercise of these powers will also have stringent safeguards, including suitable legal thresholds, judicial oversight of certain measures and a power to create a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to support the work of the government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

The draft Bill also reinforces the prevent strategy. It will create a general duty on a range of organisations to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism.  It will also put our voluntary programme for people at risk of radicalisation on a statutory basis.

So what can the UK and Sweden do together?

Despite the shared nature of the problem we accept there is no one size fits all solution. Although the UK and Sweden are likeminded, we work within different social, political and constitutional contexts. And hence we need tailor-made approaches.

It may well be that some of the measures I have set out would not be workable here, for political and/or legal reasons.

That said, there is plenty we can learn from each other and do together. Over the past years, ministers and officials have travelled in both directions to share experiences and discuss common challenges.

Most recently, at the end of last month, Mona Sahlin – in her role as National Countering Violent Extremism Coordinator – travelled to London. She took a strong delegation of practitioners – police officers, local government officials and social workers from Sweden’s three largest cities. They met a wide range of UK officials engaged in different strands of the effort to prevent radicalization and violent extremism.

Our police and security agencies also enjoy close and continuous cooperation. As a direct consequence of this work terrorist suspects have been arrested and their plots disrupted. For example a Swedish terrorist suspect Berlin Ghildo was arrested at Heathrow airport late last year.

There is doubtless even more we can do together and the UK will be a ready and willing partner for Sweden, bilaterally and in the EU in this crucial endeavour.

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A Tale of Three Cities

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Today I am pleased to welcome a guest blogger on my blog, Sir David King, The Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative on Climate Change. He recently visited Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo and shares his experiences of sustainable urban transport:

Sustainable Transport:  A Tale of Three Cities.  It was the worst of times for the climate; it was the best of times for low-carbon solutions.

I recently visited the three Scandinavia capitals and in every one was really impressed with the innovation underway to provide the cities with technology for more sustainable transport.  It was interesting to see where there are common challenges but different solutions and how policy is delivering the low-carbon mobility shift.

In Stockholm we were proudly taken on the first test drive of a new plug in electric hybrid bus.  The project is part of the EU Zero Emission Urban Bus System, which includes trials in London and Glasgow.  We’re use to seeing hybrid buses in the UK, but the Stockholm project aims to take the technology further to eliminate the need to use combustion engines by charging the bus on route.   The Stockholm project are using overhead chargers, whilst other projects such as Glasgow are using inductive chargers places under the road. Each type of charger has its own issues with planning and longevity.  Whilst the overhead structures take up space and may receive local objections, in-road chargers may be subject to interruption from road and pipe repairs.

In Copenhagen I got to try out their new daily hire bikes.  Copenhagen already has a huge bike community, with over 220 miles of cycle lanes as well as dedicated signs and lights. 36 % of Copenhageners commute by bike daily, travelling more than 600,000 miles in total.  The hire bikes make this even easier with built in dynamo electric engines and a GPS-enabled tablet on the handlebar.  It took a bit of getting use to, but once you start pedalling the motor kicks in and assists you.  You also have to get used to back pedalling for brakes. This stumped a couple of colleagues who regularly cycle to work in London with two handlebar brakes! Copenhagen aims to become the cycling capital of the world, making it even faster and easier to get around town on two wheels, as a key part of the strategy to become the first CO2-neutral capital by 2025.

A highlight for me was the world’s first Tesla taxi in Oslo.  Based on charging at home, these 100% electric taxis can give you a 300 mile capacity from an overnight 10 hour charge.  When superchargers are rolled out to public charging stations they will provide a 170 mile capacity in a 30 minute charge.  With Norway’s renewable electricity supply, the Tesla taxis in Oslo are truly sustainable and a symbol of a successful policy to stimulate consumer demand for low-carbon vehicles.  These cars have even impacted on the lives of the drivers.  One driver told us how, since having his Tesla, he’s looked at his own home heating.  He has now stopped used oil and wood and installed a heat pump.

These are excellent examples of how cities and policymakers are delivering more sustainable urban transport solutions.  The green technology shift is well under way in the three Scandinavian capitals.  But these successes cannot be looked at in isolation.  City planning needs to take a holistic approach and look at low carbon solutions across the spectrum, from lighting to rubbish to water management, and implement each in a coordinated way, ensuring minimum disruption.

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Friday, December 12th, 2014

Last week as Sweden debate its budget (with dramatic consequences) Britain’s Finance Minister delivered the so-called “Autumn Statement”. It’s a curious name for a semi-annual budget that emerges in December. But it confirmed the Spring-like tendencies in the UK economy, good news for Sweden given we’re one of your bigger export markets.

The Chancellor offered positive news on economic growth compared to expectations earlier in the year. He also announced: a new tax on multinationals who try to shift profit away from the UK; less generous tax allowances for banks;  and a number of investments aimed at improving the competitiveness of Northern England.

The main features of the statement were:

  • The UK economic recovery is now established. The independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) revised up forecasts for 2014 growth by 0.3ppts, to 3.0%. Growth in 2014 is expected to be the strongest in 8 years and the UK to be the fastest growing economy in the G7. The OBR also revised up its forecast of expected growth in 2015, to 2.4%.  With all broad sectors growing by at least 3% year-on-year in Q3 the recovery is also increasingly broad based. External risks to the recovery remain, particularly from the euro area.
  • The labour market has continued to perform strongly. Over 2 million jobs have been added to the economy since 2010, with over five jobs created for every public sector job lost. The UK saw the fastest employment growth in the G7 over the last year.
  • The budget deficit is expected to have been halved as a share of GDP by 2014-15, to 5.0%, down from 10.2% in 2009-10. The OBR confirmed that the government remains on course to meet its fiscal targets, with a budget surplus of £4bn expected in 2018-19 and a declining ratio of debt to GDP from 2016-17.

In his new policy announcements, the Chancellor took action to reduce the scope for businesses to avoid paying tax on UK activity and also halved the generosity of allowances on losses for financial institutions. Branded the Google tax by the UK media, this new ‘diverted profits tax’ will levy a 25% rate of tax on UK and foreign multinationals which manipulate international tax rules to divert profit abroad. The Chancellor also announced that tax allowances for historical losses by financial institutions will be halved to return more money to the public from those who helped cause the crisis.

The Autumn Statement was also about rebalancing the economic geography of Britain. It sets out a commitment to build a “Northern Powerhouse”, with investments in infrastructure and the science base. There is a £6bn investment programme in roads as part of a broader £15bn investment across the UK motorway system.

£1bn will be spent on the North, creating new centres of excellence in science and the creative industries across a number of cities.

The government also announced policies to reduce the tax burden for businesses creating apprenticeships across the country and introduced loan support to those individuals wishing to undertake postgraduate study.

The UK, like Sweden, is an export-oriented economy, heavily dependent on recovery in the eurozone in particular. But we’re also taking  big steps, despite the tightness of our public finances, to rebalance our modernise our economy, to meet the challenges and opportunities of this global century.

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Thursday, December 11th, 2014

On Tuesday, Ambassador Paul Johnston delivered a speech at an SKGS seminar on lessons from the UK energy market. The audience included members of industry and Swedish MPs. The transcript of the speech is reproduced below.

9th December 2014

Energy has come to the forefront of European policy debates, both as a Prosperity and Security issue. A combination of Fukushima, Shale Gas, and not least Putin have put energy questions at the top of our shared agenda.

Finding security of supply and stability has long been the holy grail of energy policy. Achieving this while moving towards a low carbon and price competitive future is even more difficult. As all European countries contemplate future of energy supply amid regional and global uncertainties, achieving a forward-thinking energy policy with clear targets is vital to security and sustainability.

The UK has sought to address this concern through the Electricity Market Reform launched in 2012.  Our policy is to reduce emissions at home while simultaneously adding long-term security and capacity – all the while relying on the private sector.

Overall UK Approach to climate goals – 80% by 2050

Addressing climate change at home and abroad has been a cornerstone of the British Government’s energy policy. We want to be a driver of ambitious action on the international stage and ensure that our own policies promote a secure energy supply based on low carbon solutions at home.

The Climate Change Act of 2012 is the framework to achieving the UK’s climate goals. This act imposes a legal obligation on the UK government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

It is ambitious and rightfully so. And its real bite is that it is not aspirational – it is a legal requirement. It is, in fact, the world’s first legally binding climate change target.

To underpin the rigour of the legislation and to ensure a future government won’t simply put off reducing emissions until some mad scramble in the last decade before the deadline – this government has introduced a carbon budgeting system that caps emissions over five-year periods.

The carbon budget acts as a cap on the domestic emissions over five years. The idea is to have a cost-effective path to achieving the 2050 requirement. Importantly, the first four carbon budgets have already been placed in legislation and now run up to 2027.

Our first carbon budget target required a 22% reduction in emissions to occur from 2008 to 2012. During those four years we actually reduced emissions by 26%.

The long term planning under the Climate Change Act and through the carbon budgets also benefits businesses. The 15 year time period provides stability and certainty around which companies can plan.

Our ambitious, yet clear, legislative backdrop has established a framework to develop an economically credible emissions reduction plan.

Why we need EMR – current energy mix

One of the core policies the UK has implemented to cut emissions is the Electricity Market Reform. The reform measures have been important in moving our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels towards renewable and low carbon technology.

Approximately 25% of the UK’s existing generation capacity – or 20 gigawatts – will be lost over the next ten years due to new regulations or due to age. Of course this will put pressure on our energy supply as our capacity margin will be significantly reduced.

Against this backdrop, the Electricity Market Reform is designed to bring about far-reaching changes to

(1) better deliver the investment needed to maintain security of supply,

(2) meet our renewable and decarbonisation targets,

and (3) minimise consumer bills.

There are already enormous pressures on the electricity market that EMR seeks to address. It is estimated that electricity demand will steadily increase – anything from 30-50% by 2050. As of now, the UK’s percentage of renewables is low compared to  Sweden – only 12% of UK electricity comes from renewable sources.

To meet the demand and to meet the 2050 target, it is estimated that we will need nearly 110 billion pounds in investment in renewable energy over the next ten years alone. A big opportunityfor business as well as a climate commitment fulfilled.

What EMR involves

EMR has been designed to incentivise private sector investment. The two principal features of the reform are (1) Contracts for Difference and (2) creation of the Capacity Market. I’ll take each in turn.

Quite simply, contracts for difference are legally binding, private law contracts between a government-owned limited company and an electricity generator.

In practice, an energy generator sells its electricity into the market normally. The difference is that the Contract for Difference will reflect the difference in the estimate of the market price and an estimate of the long term price – also known as the strike price. If the market price is higher than originally predicted, then the generator may have to pay back the difference. If the market price is lower the state will pay the generator.

The strike price is determined by the government (through a Limited Company owned by the government) and then agreed with a generator (who could be running offshore wind farms or a nuclear power station) in a long-term, private law contract. Private law contracts are important because they provide certainty and allow for normal contract rights, obligations and recourse.

Contracts for difference are designed to stimulate investment in low carbon technologies, including renewable resources, nuclear and Carbon Capture and Storage by providing predictable revenue streams.

Predictability helps to minimise risk and makes it easier and cheaper to secure finance. The government is putting almost £8bn – something like 90 billion kronor – into CFD between now and 2020 alone.

The system will initially be standardised and allocated across a wide-range of low carbon technologies, ie different technologies will receive different levels of subsidy to attract investment in these new technologies. The ultimate goal is to have a competitive, tech-neutral system of allocation, ie a free market in low carbon energy options.

Capacity market

The Capacity Market is designed to support the security of supply when necessary. As a product of government, private business and NGO collaboration, the capacity market will ensure that there is enough reliable capacity to meet in demand.

It is essentially composed of three parts: First there is a forecast of future peak demand, determined years in advance; Second, a prediction of the capacity needed to ensure supply for the future peak demand, which is then contracted through a competitive central auction and; Finally there’s the availability of providers to enter into capacity agreements.

The capacity agreements will cover 15 year periods. The contract will demonstrate the suppliers are committed to provide electricity when needed in the delivery year in exchange for a steady capacity payment. If the supplier fails to provide the agreed upon electricity when called, the party will face stiff penalties.

Providers of capacity will receive predictable revenue in exchange for reliable capacity supply. It is essentially an insurance policy against blackouts.

The first capacity market auction will be taking place later this month. There have been more than 500 applications with a combined electrical output level of 62 GW – something like 70% of current demand. This is a very encouraging signal of industry interest in this new approach.

Both the capacity market and the contracts for difference are supplemented by other institutional elements, though those two are the main elements of the reform package.

The key themes running through the reform architecture are predictability and security and a strong encouragement to invest in clean technology.

Where we are now

At the moment we are doing well in terms of the amount of investment in renewable energy and storage in the UK. Our approach has been to let the market dictate which technology is used for renewable electricity generation. We have no tech-specific targets and the result is a wide mix of cutting edge electricity generation.

The UK has some of the best offshore wind farms in the EU. There are over 20 sites, including four of the largest in the EU. The wind farms have over 3.3 gigawatt capacity.

We are one of the leaders in wave and tidal generation plants and have seen a steady increase in development of facilities.

The UK is responsible for roughly 27% of all tidal development projects and 23% of wave projects globally. We are also leading the way in the establishment of energy parks – facilities that bring together stakeholders from universities, researchers and private businesses in the field of marine energy. Through these groups, we are looking to become smarter and more innovative in marine energy sources.

Role of Swedish Investors

Swedish investors have played a large role in the development of the British energy markets. Vattenfall has invested over 2 billion pounds since entering the UK market in 2008. As a result, five major wind farms – on and offshore – have been developed along with other smaller but still important investments.

Electricity Market Reform will add incentive and opportunity for firms, including Swedish firms, to enter the British market and continue to develop the relationship. There is still so much potential in electricity generation that has yet to be realised.

At the moment the UK gets only 12% of its electricity from renewable sources. Estimates are that we will need that number to be closer to 20% by 2020 to meet our 2020 targets. So there is obviously room for, and a requirement to, develop further.

The UK’s energy roadmap, produced in 2013, estimated that a realistic central range of wind power by 2020 is about 18 gigawatts. That number goes up to 40 gigawatts by 2030. EMR is helping to reduce costs to realise this massive potential.

Similarly, wave and tidal have the theoretical capacity to be able to comprise up to 20% of the UK’s current energy demand. Short term predictions are to produce 200 to 300 megawatts by 2020, but that could rise to 27 gigawatts by 2050. Based on our extensive shoreline, our wave and tidal energy potential is estimated at 25-30 gigawatts a year.

There is also a great opportunity to expand production in bioenergy. The government aims to reach 30% of the 2020 targets through biofuels and bio-refineries.

EMR has already helped unlock investment.

The UK’s renewable electricity sector has doubled in size since 2010. The first Contracts for Difference were awarded in April this year. The projects included offshore wind farms, coal to biomass conversions and a dedicated biomass plant with combined heat and power.

By 2020, the projects are expected to provide up to 12 billion pounds of private sector investment, 8500 jobs and 4.5 gigawatts of low-carbon electricity.

As I noted earlier, our government predicts that the UK will need a further 100 billion pounds of investment in electricity infrastructure between now and 2020 – of which 65 billion is needed in electricity generation capacity.

Nuclear power is also going to continue being important to British energy capacity and generation.

Last October, the key terms for an investment contract were agreed for Hinkley Point Centre. This will lead to 16 gigawatts of new power at Hinkley Point and Sizewell. Plans for development at Moorside will also lead to 3.6 gigawatts, and plans for two to three reactors at Wylfe in Anglesey and Oldbury will also help meet our needs further.


We are in the early stages of an ambitious project to diversify our energy sources to ensure security and capacity. Attracting investment is key to meeting the UK’s long term energy obligations. It is also key to the future of the British economy. Investment will stimulate the economy, support growth of UK supply chains and boost the job market.

Electricity Market Reform is the essential mechanism for encouraging investment. It includes innovative, competitive features, in particular Contracts for difference and the capacity market. Consumers will also benefit due to more stable supply and prices.

I hope my remarks have illustrated the scale of the potential in the UK and the scale of the ambition we have. Thank you for the opportunity to take part in your conference.

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Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

This is the third year in a row the UK has won one of science’s Oscars, thanks to the work of British-American neuroscientist John O’Keefe.

Professor O’Keefe, of University College London, was jointly awarded this Prize for Physiology and Medicine with two Norwegian researchers for the discovery of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain – an ‘inner GPS’ – that enables us to orient ourselves.  This is the latest in a long line of recent British winners, following Professors Higgs and Levitt in 2013, and Professor Gurdon the year before that.

Science matters to the UK.  With four of the world’s top ten universities, and more Nobel prizes per capita than any other large nation, the UK is internationally renowned for its research excellence. There is a strength, breadth and depth to our scientific activities that few countries can match.  That is why we place such emphasis on science & innovation at the embassy, led by our in house Science & Innovation team, with support from Trade & Investment colleagues.

Sweden is a key partner for us and one of my ambitions is for even greater collaboration between our two countries.

Sweden and the UK both have impressive records in securing EU funding, and as I have previously written, we are excited about exploring the potential synergies between the ESS facility in Lund and its counterpart in the UK.  We are always open to suggestions for other collaborative efforts, so please do contact us with your ideas!

As we gear up (literally, given the white tie and tails) for the Nobel ceremony this week and welcome our Science Minister, Greg Clark, we should reflect on the centrality of science and innovation to our future health and prosperity and to the work our governments are doing to support it.

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Corruption: the cancer of the body politics

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Corruption is a local problem and a global concern. Though corruption is more prevalent in societies with poorly functioning governments, the reality is that no society is immune.

The effects are real and devastating. It is estimated that total cost of corruption is $2.6 trillion – or 5% of global GDP.

That is why the British government is announcing later this month a new action Plan.

The plan will reinforce the UK’s commitment to ending corruption at home and abroad, building on our already extensive work.

No country is fully immune from corruption and corruption in one country can have a wider impact.

Not only does corruption erode a citizen’s trust in the nation, it also deters trade and investment by adding risks and costs for, and thus scaring off, investors. It stifles growth and development and even can support terrorist organisations and organised crime.

The wide-ranging effects have been the motivating factor behind the UK’s push to end evil.

In 2011, Parliament passed the UK Bribery Act – a world-leading piece of legislation that places high standards on British companies operating at home and abroad. We have been working with other countries to adopt similar legislation.

Our Government has also been using our presence and influence in international organisations like the United Nations, G7, G20 and OECD to push the anti-corruption agenda.

Sweden has been an important partner in our work, as evidenced in our collaboration on the Business Anti-Corruption Portal, to help companies adhere to UN norms and requirements.

Our approach on corruption is resolute, and will continue to be so, not least because it is so harmful to our global system. Economic growth suffers and resources are diverted from where they are needed most.

So as we head into the New Year, we’ll utilise our Anti-Corruption Plan and work in partnership with like-minded nations to help the global community prosper and to live free of stifling corruption.

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Blog updates

29 May

Editor’s blog, May 29th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Sweden has spent the week celebrating stealing the Eurovision crown (again), with even our most..." READ »


26 May

Vet, kan, känner eller känner till? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It happens every now and then that my students mix up the words “vet”, “kan”, “känner”..." READ »

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