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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:46 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Shadow Minister (the Environment), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 2:46 pm, 8th February 2005

I want to look at a number of issues relating to the need for a co-ordinated approach to mitigating the effects of climate change. The first is the security implications of climate change. During the past 12 months, we have been developing a greater understanding of the impact of climate change on the security of countries across the globe, and of the potential for climate change to increase the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots, with the consequential insecurity that that would bring.

I have taken quite an interest in this matter, and it worries me that we still need greater Government co-ordination in this regard. The Minister will recall that, in March 2004, I asked the Secretary of State what assessment she had made of the national security implications of climate change. The Minister responded on her behalf, saying that the Government were

"carrying out internal assessments to identify how policy and operational responsibilities in all Departments could be affected by climate change. This process is currently reporting, and has included both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office . . . Some of the potential linkages between climate change and security include pressure on food and water resources and energy supplies, which in turn . . . may contribute to the causes of migration . . . and conflict."—[Hansard, 10 March 2004; Vol. 418, c. 1534W.]

I followed that up by asking when we were going to see the report, and the Minister replied that it would be "later in 2004", and that copies would be placed in both Libraries. I asked a member of the Library staff about this yesterday, and, having consulted DEFRA, they told me that the information would not be available until April or May this year. I believe that the Minister and the Secretary of State are concentrating on climate change, and I certainly would not suggest that they and their Department are not putting an enormous amount of effort into the matter. We know, however, that climate change is not only the responsibility of the Department that deals with the environment. It is a shared responsibility right across the Cabinet.

When I asked how many people in the Ministry of Defence were working on identifying the national security implications of climate change, I was told:

"Staff working on this do so as part of their wider duties and consequently it is not possible to quantify the numbers of staff involved."—[Hansard, 19 April 2002; Vol. 420, c. 10W.]

Is anyone working on it? Are enough people working on it? In times of instability, this is becoming an increasingly important issue. It will perform a key function in supporting the Prime Minister's leadership role on climate change. In the war against terrorism, climate change cannot be ignored. I hope that that information will be provided so that when he and the Secretary of State are negotiating with the United States—as we know they are doing—we are able to give them more information to push that point.

We must understand that we need adaptation strategies in the face of climate change, and I hope that those strategies will not include increased spending on defence, but will focus on dealing with climate change. We have a choice to make about how much we spend on defence because we have failed to deal with climate change. Other areas of defence are outside the scope of this debate and I will not comment on those.