Climate must be heart of foreign policy: EU official

LONDON (Reuters) - Climate change represents such a threat to global security it must be at the heart of European Union foreign policy, much as energy security is now, a top EU bureaucrat said on Wednesday.

The issue must also feature on the agenda in all contacts between the 27-nation bloc and other countries, said Helga Schmid, director of the policy unit of the European Council.

“Climate change has to move to center stage of thinking about foreign policy,” she told a meeting at the Royal United Services Institute military think tank.

“Energy security was never part of foreign policy dialogue. This changed two years ago when we had crisis between Ukraine and Russia on gas ... people started to realize that energy security was no longer an issue for the experts but was a fundamental foreign policy and security issue,” she said.

She told the meeting that since March, when EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana issued a strategy document on climate policy and security, the issue had been put on the agenda of all EU policy meetings with third countries.

Further steps to entrench the issue in EU foreign policy would be made at an EU summit in December, Schmid told the meeting on climate change and national security threats.

The EU has a “watch list” of countries where it perceives political or security instability. She said climate change had been added as a factor in the regular review of those countries.

She said it was increasingly accepted that more droughts, floods and famines in various parts of the world would mean the EU sending more military aid missions to those places.

Neil Adger from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research think tank said it was widely agreed that global average temperatures were likely to rise by at least 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century -- double the 2 degrees widely taken as a benchmark by politicians.

“That is catastrophic climate change,” he said, noting the faltering pace of talks which are supposed to end in December 2009 with a new global accord on cutting the main climate change culprit -- carbon dioxide emissions from human activities.

“The realistic position is that we are heading for very, very serious climate change,” he told the meeting.

Adger said some countries were starting to look at long-term ways of adapting to the climate change that was inevitable, but many were only looking at the short-term and exacerbating the problem -- by focusing on biofuels, for example.

“Climate change is not going to be a matter of watching the birds arriving two weeks earlier in spring. It is going to have a profound effect on geopolitics,” he said.

Editing by Alison Williams