As we enter what is sure to be a busy session in parliament, do allow me to provide a picture of some of the work I have undertaken at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in what has been a packed September for my team and me. A significant amount of my work has been focused around climate change and the impact this is having on the Asia and Pacific region, as well as across the world.
At the beginning of the month, I attended the Pacific Islands Forum hosted on the tiny island of Nauru, to the north-east of Australia, where climate change was at the very top of the agenda. The Pacific Islands Forum comprises 14 countries, of which 11 are Commonwealth members.
Britain has proudly led the way on tackling climate change around the world and, as a developed country, we have a moral imperative to help those around the globe who stand to lose most from the consequences of man-made climate change. Unless we work together we risk the very real tragedy of some Pacific Islands literally disappearing off the map. This is an existential threat to the future of these sovereign nations and climate security will be an increasingly important part of the UK’s work in the region.
Immediately after the Forum, I visited New Zealand, a nation with which we have had plenty of existing joint work on climate security, something which we seek to enhance. Additionally, I sought to discuss our shared commitment to tackling threats to national security and championing free trade – indeed the groundwork is being laid for a UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.
New Zealand is an obvious partner for us in our work with the Pacific Islands to tackle climate change and marine plastic pollution. As above our co-operation goes far beyond these issues as we share common values and both believe the international rules-based system affords the best opportunity for security, growth and sustainability.
In the middle of the month, I headed to San Francisco to attend the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit representing the UK Government. I gave a speech to the Summit which you can find here.
The summit brought together governments, businesses and civil society to discuss efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to transition to low carbon economies. Throughout the summit, the UK showcased a range of national and international commitments to tackle climate change, from driving the development of the zero emissions transport sector, to our support for small states and vulnerable communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
It is important that we do not consider climate change as an abstract threat. The Paris Agreement brought the world together in a shared ambition to reduce the man-made causes of climate change and we need to keep pressing ahead with that. But with the impacts of climate change already being felt, we must also start to adapt and build resilience to the changes that are already taking place.
Closing September, I had the honour of being a part of the UK’s delegation to the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York. Once again it was an absolute privilege to take part in the largest annual gathering of the international diplomatic community to discuss a vast array of the most important issues which face us all.
Again, much of my time at the General Assembly was dedicated to focusing on climate change and green finance but there were also other geopolitical matters in which I was involved. I supported our new Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in which we discussed the ongoing situation in North Korea and the progress of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula. I also sought to press the case regarding the situation in Myanmar and raised with the UK’s global partners the need for justice for the Rohingya and other minorities in response to the appalling human rights violation to which they have suffered, primarily at the hands of the Burmese military.
I hope this update is able to provide an outline of some of the work I have undertaken in the last month or so in my ministerial role. Please do look on my Twitter page and my page on the gov.uk website for much more of what I am doing in Government.