Opinion: William Hague made the connection between climate change and conflicts

William Hague during a climate change event in November 2011 alongside former Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne and South Africa’s Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko. Photo credit Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

I don’t often praise the Tories, there is only a few I believe that take the climate risk seriously, the rest of the party are tied up in anti wind farm debates while making false statements that dealing with climate change will put the country out of business.

Until last month, there were a couple of Tory Ministers that understood the importance of tackling climate change and investing in clean energy: Foreign Secretary William Hague and Climate & Energy Minister Greg Barker, but that was then and now they’re both gone. While Barker became a victim of Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle, Hague chose to quit the role, a role that had given him large amounts of international respect, not least for linking conflict and terrorism to climate change.

I believe the departure of Hague is a big loss, not only UK politics but very much also in International Politics. He was often seen working together with US colleague John Kerry who was on the very same mission as Hague in connecting the dots to climate change and saw the very same international risks as his UK colleague.

Not long after Hague took office on 12th May 2010 following the General Election in the same year, he delivered a speech on climate change. In his speech on the 27th of September he said:

“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’’.

And he didn’t stop there, up until his resignation he highlighted several times the need to deal with climate change and the threats it poses to security issues. He took the very important step in making dealing with climate change not only an environmental issue but very much a security issue.

Hague did not have to deliver a speech on climate change. Indeed for the Foreign Secretary, it’s not in his job description, but he did it because he thought it was essential and because he passionately believed that those two issues were connected and to deal with the threats of conflicts you also have to deal with climate change.

One can only hope that the next Foreign Secretaries will walk in his footsteps and make the same bold moves and realise how the conflict issues around the world unfolding in front of our eyes are being fuelled by everything from drought to energy issues.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

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