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Crises of conflict and climate change are connected, Welby tells Lords

05 April 2023


Archbishop Welby speaks in the House of Lords last week

Archbishop Welby speaks in the House of Lords last week

CONFLICT and climate change are interconnected, the Archbishop of Canterbury has emphasised, in a speech in the House of Lords.

“Climate change is not in and of itself the driver of violent conflict; however, it is a significant force-multiplier, and violent conflict is the easiest way of preventing people from taking any action on climate change by making such action impossible,” Archbishop Welby told the House on Thursday of last week.

Climate breakdown was forcing people to leave their homes, he said: “In 2019 alone, 24.9 million people around the world were internally displaced by climate-related disasters; that is more than the total number of refugees in 1945.”

For some countries, it was too late to attempt to adapt to climate change, and he called for the swift instigation of the “loss-and-damage” fund agreed at COP27 in November (News, 20 November 2022).

“The fund should make grants, not loans; it should be comprised of new money rather than that taken from existing or reduced pledges; and it should be allocated on the basis of need, paid for by countries that have contributed most to climate change,” he said.

The Archbishop asked the Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment, Lord Goldsmith, when cuts to overseas aid would be reversed, and the budget returned to 0.7 per cent of GDP.

“I would love to see us return to 0.7 per cent, but it is not something that I am capable of doing. I am very keen to see it happen as soon as possible, but I am afraid that I cannot say anything more useful about it,” Lord Goldsmith replied.

Lord Goldsmith was previously Conservative MP for Richmond Park, before resigning in opposition to the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport (News, 28 October 2016).

He failed to regain the seat at the subsequent by-election, won it in the General Election in 2017, but lost it again in the 2019 election. He was then appointed a life peer and continued in government.

Lord Goldsmith set out the scale of the challenge and its costs: “Unprecedented global action is therefore needed to tackle climate change and to protect and restore nature on a scale that we have never seen before.

“This must be coupled with full-scale economic transformation, the global shift to net zero, and climate-resilient and, crucially, nature-positive economies. It will require trillions of dollars of investment,” he said.

The money would have to come from the private sector, he said. “Our challenge as a species is to ensure that every decision, every investment, and every political decision that is made takes into account the value of nature and the cost of destroying it.

“That is how we move from where we are today to where we need to be.”

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