Climate change is bigger threat than WMD – so cut arms budget, boost climate spending and slash emissions, says Green Party leader

18 October 2010

Caroline Lucas, responding to the National Security Strategy, said today that climate change is a bigger threat than WMD, so the focus of the NSS should be to cut our arms budget, boost climate spending and slash emission

She highlighted that the four "Tier I" threats faced by the UK (terrorism, cyber-attacks, a natural event like a flu pandemic, and an international crisis that draws the UK into conflict) stand in stark contrast to the views of William Hague, the supreme Allied Commander of NATO, and Liam Fox himsel

Lucas said that: "All three have focused on the need for environmental security to be central to the UK and defence policy in the 21st centur

"Last week, James Stavridis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe warned of 'cascading interests and broad implications stemming from the effects of climate change [that] should cause today's global leaders to take stock.' (1) But climate change is not one of the coalition's top four security threats.

"Last month, William Hague, speaking in New York, said that, 'An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity' and that 'Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.' (2) What has changed in the last three weeks?

"And four years ago, in a speech to Chatham House, Liam Fox said that we were dependent upon non-renewable fossil fuels and that: 'In the years ahead energy security, economic security and national security will be inextricably linked.' (3)

Lucas continued to say: "How will Trident fight climate change? How will new aircraft carriers fight climate change? What we need to do is shift our spending on the defence budget to de-carbonise our economy and seriously invest in both renewables and a nationwide programme of energy efficiency." (4)

Notes

1) Admiral James Stavridis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, quoted in The Guardian, 11 October - http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/oct/11/nato-conflict-arctic-resources, "For now, the disputes in the north have been dealt with peacefully, but climate change could alter the equilibrium over the coming years in the race of temptation for exploitation of more readily accessible natural resources ... The cascading interests and broad implications stemming from the effects of climate change should cause today's global leaders to take stock, and unify their efforts to ensure the Arctic remains a zone of co-operation - rather than proceed down the icy slope towards a zone of competition, or worse a zone of conflict."

2) Speech by William Hague, Sept 27 2010, Council on Foreign Relations, New York - http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2270476/william-hague-climate-change: "Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met.

"It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration ... An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity.

"Two weeks ago I talked of Britain's values in a networked world. I said then that a successful response to climate change must be a central objective of British foreign policy.

"I said this not only because I believe action against climate change is in line with a values-based foreign policy, but because it underpins our prosperity and security. You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security. They are interconnected and inseparable. They form four resource pillars on which global security, prosperity and equity stand. Each depends on the others. Plentiful, affordable food requires reliable and affordable access to water and energy. Increasing dependence on coal, oil, and gas threatens climate security, increasing the severity of floods and droughts, damaging food production, exacerbating the loss of biodiversity and, in countries that rely on hydropower, undermining energy security through the impact on water availability. 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. The clock is ticking. The time to act is now. And because it is imperative that foreign and domestic policies are mutually reinforcing we must ensure that our approach is coherent. That is why we established the UK's National Security Council to ensure this happens across the full range of issues, including climate change. And that is why I work hand in glove with Chris Huhne, the British Energy and Climate Change Secretary, and Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, to ensure that our domestic action reflects our level of international ambition. There is no global consensus on what climate change puts at risk, geopolitically and for the global economy, and thus on the scale and urgency of the response we need. We must build a global consensus if we are to guarantee our citizens security and prosperity. That is a job for foreign policy. The fundamental purpose of foreign policy is to shift the political debate, to create the political space for leaders and negotiators to reach agreement. We did not get that right before Copenhagen. We must get it right now. So we urgently need to mobilise Foreign Ministers and the diplomats they lead, as well as institutions such as the Council on Foreign Relations, to put climate change at the heart of foreign policy.

"When I became Foreign Secretary in May, I said the core goals of our foreign policy were to guarantee Britain's security and prosperity. Robust global action on climate change is essential to that agenda. Climate change is one of the gravest threats to our security and prosperity. Unless we take robust and timely action to deal with it, no country will be immune to its effects. However difficult it might seem now, a global deal under the UN is the only response to this threat which will create the necessary confidence to drive a low carbon transition. We must be undaunted by the scale of the challenge. We must continue to strive for agreement. We must not accept that because there is no consensus on a way forward now that there will never be one. And to change the debate, we must imaginatively deploy all of the foreign policy assets in our armoury until we have shaped that global consensus."

3) Liam Fox, speech to Chatham House think-tank, on energy security, 22 May 2006 - http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/3332_220506fox.pdf: "We are all competing for the same natural resources to feed the economic system ... In the years ahead energy security, economic security and national security will be inextricably linked. If we want to ensure that we can keep the lights on in Britain then we need to develop a comprehensive energy strategy. It is simply a matter of risk management. Such a strategy will need to have three components: diversity in the type of fuels we use; diversity in the geographical sources of those fuels and the security structures that will guarantee the safe transport of these fuels."

4) Letter to Guardian 13 October 2010 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/oct/13/cut-military-research-spending, "The overarching threats to international security arise from rising fuel and resource costs, climate change and the widening gap between rich and poor. Nuclear weapons are of no help in dealing with these problems. However, a major shift of military R&D to civilian programmes could help to tackle these issues, improving the UK's security, creating jobs and helping to pull us out of recession. We urge ministers to shift their priorities so that science and technology can contribute to tackling the real threats to the UK's present and future security."   

 






Back to main news page