UK’s Special Representative for Climate Change addresses OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum

Thank you, Chair, Colleagues,

Chair, the UK Government appreciates and respects your decision to hold this meeting, in line with the related Permanent Council Decision. But this conference does not represent a return to business as usual – we can’t have a discussion about security without acknowledging Russia’s pre-meditated, unprovoked, illegal, ongoing invasion of the sovereign and democratic state of Ukraine.

The human cost is immeasurable, and we reiterate our lasting solidarity with Ukraine and its neighbors.

Now, on environmental damage.

We heard powerfully from Ukrainian Minister Strilets, the appalling environmental damage to Ukraine, such as degradation and pollution of land and water, and on nuclear pollution.

There is wider energy and food price insecurity, impacting the poorest the most severely.

Third, our consumption of polluting fossil fuels is fueling Putin’s war.

A UK priority is to end our need for Russian oil and gas. The UK has already announced that we will stop Russian oil imports by the end of the year. We will phase out Putin’s gas shortly after. We must all working together to do this in a way that is fair but fast. A great example is the International Energy Agency (IEA) 10-point plan to cut natural gas imports from Russia to the EU by more than half this year.

As Mr Mazurek said, phase out of fossil fuel is entirely consistent with COP26 under the UK Presidency, in partnership with Italy, in Glasgow last year. 197 countries agreed to accelerate the shift to a clean, decarbonised economy, to strengthen our economies; improve health; provide more local and secure renewable energy; and improve our security by reducing our dependence on fossil fuel.

Chair, we have no choice. There is no other path to preventing catastrophic global climate and ecological breakdown, and maintain security.

As Secretary General Schmid said, clean energy is key. Investment in energy efficiency and renewables is now cheaper than in fossil fuels and must be the focus of investment.

On Ukraine, specifically, we and our allies will continue to make substantial financial and economic support available to Ukraine to strengthen the resilience of its economy. And reaffirm our commitment to providing support to meet immediate humanitarian needs, as well as military and defense assistance to Ukraine for as long as necessary.

Over the months ahead our minds will turn to rebuilding the country. This will be one of the great tasks for our generation. Russian forces have destroyed city after city. We will help Ukraine to rebuild. And I call upon the international community to put the principles of environmental protection and sustainable, low carbon development at the heart of reconstruction.

The Ukraine and the UK have long been key partners on climate action. Indeed, at the UK / Ukraine Strategic Dialogue in December we committed support for upgrading Ukraine’s nuclear sector and supply nuclear fuel services, to help reduce dependency on Russian nuclear fuel imports.

Rebuilding Ukraine, and healing our planet, will need investment. The UK will support Ukrainian energy security, in renewables and clean energy technologies, and has committed 150 million pounds to the Climate Investment Funds’ Renewable Energy Integration program, with Ukraine selected to receive up to 70 million dollars to develop its Country Investment Plan.

In January, the UK announced 100 million pounds in new funding to support Ukraine’s energy security and reform agenda.

In conclusion, as the G7 Foreign Ministers agreed this month, our carbon-based economy is causing climatic instability that threatens our civilization. Our patterns of consumption and production are causing ecological breakdown. But there is another way, that is cheaper, cleaner, healthier – and more secure.

‘Traditional’ concepts of insecurity are now fundamentally inseparable from ‘environmental’ insecurity.

Most civilizations down through the ages came to end not through conflict, but from the human tendency to live beyond our means, our ecological limits.

Security and freedom can only be achieved if grounded in sustainability.

Thank you.

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