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Climate Security

Volume 459: debated on Tuesday 1 May 2007

6. What assessment she has made of the outcomes of the recent UN Security Council debate on energy, security and climate; and if she will make a statement. (134736)

The UN Security Council debate was a landmark event. The participation of 55 countries was an all-time record for a thematic debate. The vast majority of those who participated recognised climate security as an issue of immediate international concern. That should add momentum to the UN negotiations to galvanise collective action.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that much of the debate about climate change so far has been understandably couched in terms of the humanitarian consequences of failure to address it? However, the security implications of failure to deal with the humanitarian issue are profound and important. Can she make an assessment of how far the international community has appreciated that and taken it into account in developing policies to combat climate change?

My hon. Friend is right. It would be fair to say that we have been in on the early stages of recognition by the international community of the security implications of that challenge. As he may know—and, by coincidence, on the very day of the debate in the Security Council—a group of retired American generals and admirals published their own assessment of the security issue, describing climate change as

“a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.”

They also identified it as a security risk to the United States, as it is to the whole world.

Is it not the case that the countries that will be most affected by the first changes in climate will be the poorest, such as Bangladesh, where large parts of the country will disappear? What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the possibility of some 100 million refugees pouring out of some of the poorest countries and the security implications not only for the surrounding countries, but the regions in which they sit?

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and the country that he uses as an example—Bangladesh—is an area where substantial movement of people is causing security difficulties. However, I advise him and the whole House that a range of different threats have much the same effect. For example, there is great concern about the implications that difficulties with the flow of the River Nile would have, both in Egypt and all along its course, and about the pressures caused by the possible migration of millions of people. My hon. Friend is therefore right to identify such challenges. It is very important that the countries of the world work together to adapt to the changes that are already inevitable and to head off those that are not, as they might be even more damaging.