UK Minister says failure at Durban would be severe blow to the climate change project but also to multilateralism

London, 15 September 2011

In a recent speech in London, Henry Bellingham, Minister for Africa and the Overseas Territories in the UK Foreign Office spoke about the urgency of action on climate change saying that "climate change is one of the greatest common challenges facing the modern world". He added that "progress at Durban is essential to maintain investor confidence in the low carbon transition. I, and other UK Ministers, will be engaging with our international counterparts throughout the autumn to make this case. My message will be blunt: failure at Durban would be not just a severe blow to the climate change project but also to multilateralism more broadly."

Referring to the upcoming UN climate talks in Durban he pointed out that "South Africa has said they want to make Durban an 'African COP' and the UK fully supports this goal. This means ensuring African voices are heard loud and clear. African countries are asking for greater ambition and urgency from major economies, and support to help them develop a low carbon, climate resilient way forward. That means making substantial progress on the issues that matter to Africans, such as delivery of climate finance. But most fundamentally it means pushing forward for a legally binding deal in line with the 2 degree limit."

UN Security Council Debate

Minister Bellingham also said that "A measure of how far the international community has come in recognising the threat of climate change - and our collective responsibility to face it - was clear at the UN Security climate change debate in July - only the second of its kind. And when Admiral Neil Morisetti and I engaged with critical partners beforehand to secure a substantive outcome from the debate ? this was undoubtedly one of our top priorities in New York at the time. Because for the very first time, the Council issued a Presidential Statement recognising the role of climate change as a risk multiplier, exacerbating threats to international peace and security."

A remarkable 62 countries spoke in the debate. Sudan said that drought and desertification brought on by climate change had played a crucial role as a threat multiplier in the conflict in Darfur, and in that conflict $3 billion has been spent on peacekeeping operations. Kenya spoke about how many people had entered Kenya just in the preceding month, and tragically they are still coming into the refugee camps. I am delighted to be joined today by His Excellency, the Kenyan High Commissioner. They have joined those Somalis who had already sought refuge in the country, driven by the lack of food, water and security. I spent a day in July visiting the Somali region of Ethiopia and had a chance to see for myself the effects of the current drought.

?The UN Environment Programme said that 10 UN Security Council-mandated peacekeeping operations costing $35 billion had been deployed to countries where natural resources had played a key role in conflict. That represents half of the total peacekeeping budget ever spent. And if people say, ?does it affect Britain, why is Britain concerned?? we pay roughly 8% of every UN mission and are a major contributor and therefore have a huge stake in what happens.

?As the Foreign Secretary laid out in a speech last year, ?you cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security... and as the world becomes more networked, the impacts of climate change in one country or region will affect the prosperity and security of others around the world.?

?But despite this, some countries felt that climate change was not an appropriate subject for discussion in the Security Council. I will not name names because I am a diplomat. But we strongly disagree.?

Related news

In the lead up to the UN Security Council debate in July 2011, Minister Bellingham and Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, climate and energy security envoy of the U.K. Ministry of Defense and Foreign Commonwealth Office - and a member of the IES Military Advisory Council on Climate Change and Security - met with political, military and business and civic leaders in several US cities. During a two day visit to Chicago discussions focused on national security threats posed by current energy needs, topics of mutual interest to the UK and the US. Admiral Morisetti also recently visited the US Southern Command in Florida and delivered a speech at at Florida Atlantic University. In a related interview of Miami Herald World Desk editor John Yearwood the Admiral spoke about how climate change intersects with national and global security.

Rear Admiral Morisetti echoed the remarks he made at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in June 2010 when he said of the UK military that ?Our responsibility is to look after national security of our citizens today and in the future,? adding, ?We need to adapt our capability to deal with the changes that will come with climate change.?

In that panel discussion he went on to say that ?In the case of climate change it is unlikely that it will be the direct cause of conflict. Rather it will act as a ?threat multiplier? in the regions that are already experiencing multiple stresses. Conflict in many of these regions has the potential to impact UK?s interests and security. Therefore we need to better understand how people will react to the second and third order consequences of climate change, including the loss of land and livelihood.

?At the same time it is important to ensure that we have the appropriate capabilities to undertake missions in the future world, whether it is humanitarian assistance in response to extreme weather events, conflict prevention, or conflict resolution. In all cases we must also make sure that delivery of that capability is sustainable and does not substantially contribute to the causes of climate change: key to this is reducing our dependency on fossil fuels,? he said.

Read the full speech by Minister Bellingham | UK Energy Security Envoy Visits Chicago | Video interview with Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti: | Listen to the AHM June 2010 Podcast: