Friday, October 01, 2010

Foreign policy, at its heart, is about ensuring the security and prosperity of our citizens. We cannot do this unless we develop an effective strategy for dealing with climate change. Climate security is inseparably connected to energy security, food security and water security. That is why William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary gave a major speech on climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday. In his speech, he said that failure to respond to climate change is inimical to the values of the UN and to Britain, “undermining trust between nations, intensifying competition for resources and shrinking the political space available for co-operation.”

Without an effective response, our security will be threatened and our economies will weaken. The poorest and most vulnerable will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change. As the foreign secretary set out, “we have a shared vision to meet the Millennium Development Goals. In a world without action on climate change, that vision will remain a dream. The effort of the last ten years will be wasted.”

Britain is responding. The UK is about to establish a Green Investment Bank, to leverage faster flows of private capital into low carbon infrastructure and get us off the hook of dependence on oil and gas. We are also radically transforming our electricity network and pushing the EU to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2020. We believe it is not just right to do this, but it’s also in our interests – and those of all of our partners. The global low carbon economy is already estimated to be worth up to £3.2 trillion a year. Britain’s share of that is £112 billion, with nearly 1 million British people employed in the low carbon sector.

But an effective response cannot be developed alone. We need others to act too. That is why we are calling for a global climate deal under the UN. It is why we are calling on EU countries to modernize their infrastructure and address the low carbon challenge. And it is why we are calling on all countries – both developed and developing – to take action.

While Lebanon has many other challenges right now and in the near future, climate change is a long-term challenge that the country cannot afford to ignore. It will impact on water resources, food production and regional security issues. Some would argue that we have already seen some of these problems in Lebanon. They certainly won’t go away unless we tackle the underlying causes of climate change. It will be difficult to get global opinion onside on the action we all need to take. But we must be undaunted by the scale of the challenge. It is not too late, but we must take robust and timely steps. As Hague said, “If we do, we can still shape our world. If we do not, the world will determine our destiny.”

Piers Cazalet is the deputy head of mission of the British Embassy in Lebanon.