The Right Honorable Hilary Benn MP, UK State Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, joined a small group of experts for a discussion of climate change and security on May 13, 2008, at the Wilson Center. The discussion centered on three questions posed by the state secretary:
- Where are the anticipated climate change and security hotspots?
- How have the international climate change and security debates affected U.S. climate change politics?
- What should the United Kingdom and the international community be doing on climate change and security links that they are not presently doing?
Benn has been outspoken on the need to address climate change's challenges. In an April 2008 address to the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, Benn argued that climate change and development "are bound together so tightly that we must either succeed in meeting both or we will fail to in both."
By many measures, the UK government has been at the forefront of the discussion on emerging climate security issues. In April 2007, then-UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett chaired the UN Security Council's first session devoted to climate change and security. The now-famous Stern Report, commissioned by the UK government in 2005, was a major impetus for ramping up attention to climate change, including consideration of its security dimensions.
Earlier this year, the United Kingdom published its first National Security Strategy, highlighting the importance of addressing climate change for national and global security:
Climate change is potentially the greatest challenge to global stability and security, and therefore to national security. Tackling its causes, mitigating its risks and preparing for and dealing with its consequences are critical to our future security, as well as protecting global prosperity and avoiding humanitarian disaster.
Observers outside the UK government have also weighed in on the debate, such as the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), which released a report by Nick Mabey on climate change and security in April 2008.
In the coming months, the Environmental Change and Security Program will continue to convene transatlantic discussions of the links between climate change, security, and foreign policy.