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Labour promises to put fight against climate change at heart of foreign policy

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London, to appear on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday Morning. Picture date: Sunday February 27, 2022 (Aaron Chown/PA)
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London, to appear on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday Morning. Picture date: Sunday February 27, 2022 (Aaron Chown/PA)

A Labour government would have a “green dimension” to its foreign policy, putting action to tackle climate change and environmental harm at the heart of its ambitions.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy will use his speech at the party’s conference in Liverpool to set out the plans, which include a push for an international criminal law against wanton harm to precious habitats.

He will confirm Labour’s position on restoring the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, which could help developing countries tackle climate change.

British Comedy Awards 2004 – London Television Studios
The late Robin Cook’s pledge for Labour foreign policy to have an ethical dimension will be echoed in David Lammy’s green commitments (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Lammy will address activists at the conference on Tuesday and his plan carries clear echoes of former foreign secretary Robin Cook’s pledge that Labour’s international policy would have an “ethical dimension”.

The shadow foreign secretary is expected to say: “The climate crisis is the biggest challenge the world faces.

“It is not a distant threat. It is here today, devastating the lives of millions of people. From the horrific wildfires in Australia and California to the suffocating sandstorms of Baghdad and the horrendous floods in Pakistan.

“While Liz Truss tries to row back on our net zero commitments, Labour’s foreign policy will be green.

“Just as Robin Cook was right to introduce an ‘ethical dimension’ to our foreign policy in the 1990s, it is right that the next Labour government introduces a ‘green dimension’.”

Under the plans, climate change would be a standing item on the agenda of the National Security Council and the UK would push for it to be a “fourth pillar” of the United Nations, along with peace and security, human rights and development.

Mr Lammy will commit to “work with allies and partners to create a new international law of ecocide that will criminalise the wilful and widespread destruction of the environment”.

International legal experts, chaired by Philippe Sands KC, have drawn up a historic definition of ecocide intended to be adopted by the International Criminal Court.

The draft law defines ecocide as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”.