Tackling climate change promotes sustainable development; 2015 Paris Climate Conference – COP21

By Seb Dance, MEP

It is rare that you are able to work on two areas that not only interest you but which overlap. I am fortunate enough in the European Parliament to sit on both the Development and Environment Committees. The two are of course intrinsically linked, and this link is no more important than in the context of the UN climate change conference taking place in Paris.

The green growth summit

The green growth summit

The extent to which committees work with one another varies but what has struck me most in my time in the Parliament is that the best policy comes when people look at issues in the round. For example, development policy can and should lead to sustainable projects which promote biodiversity, while environmental legislation aimed at illegal logging can help combat the corrosive presence of armed militia in many developing nations.

All the data shows that we are missing targets and missing the bigger picture. Science suggests some of our policies on climate change will contribute to further conflict, degrade arable land and decrease water supplies, contributing to a mass movement of people as swathes of the planet become less hospitable.

Some twenty million people were displaced in 2013. If temperatures continue to climb at the current rate, this would rise to 150 million displaced people by 2050. To put that into context some 750,000 refugees are estimated to have arrived in Europe from Syria and other blighted states this year.

The scale of this possible mass movement of people is staggering and unprecedented. But it can be mitigated, and part of the challenge we face is to make policy coherence across development and environmental issues absolutely crystal clear.

The discord between Union-wide policy and the widely different approaches of each Member-State is the main stumbling block. Many European nations are failing to join to dots between good domestic environmental policy, security and well-managed migration.

The UK government is failing to take the lead on tackling climate change, scrapping support for renewable industries like solar and wind and falling way behind on European renewable energy targets. They have perpetuated a false choice between cutting energy bills and taking action on the environment, pitting the poorest at home against impoverished people abroad.

I find it astonishing that the connection is rarely made between mitigating climate change and promoting global security. For too long we have been sleepwalking into a future defined by climate change and its consequences.

We need agreement in Paris, not the stalemate and recriminations that scarred the talks in Copenhagen.

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