The Role of the FCO in UK Government

Written submission from Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP

I am writing with regard to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s on-going inquiry into the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in UK Government. I would like to contribute my views on the very helpful role that the FCO plays in international climate diplomacy.

My department works very closely with the FCO and we agree that an effective response to climate change is in the UK’s fundamental national interest. It underpins both our security and prosperity. DECC welcomes the FCO’s role in taking this work forward internationally which complements DECC’s focus on the UNFCCC negotiations process by deploying foreign policy assets to create the political conditions within nations that will be necessary for an effective response to climate change. This is crucial to underpinning the continuing effort to reach a legally binding agreement, and thus create the policy confidence required to drive a low carbon transition. I have been very impressed with the enthusiastic work done by the FCO officials here in London as well as by their network of posts around the world and the impact that it has had. We have been able to work together to deliver our mutual objectives e.g. in supporting the Mexican presidency in Cancun.

It is clear too that the targeted use of programme funds has been instrumental in both leveraging political change and in ensuring that concrete actions on the ground build up to provide a coherent response. The FCO’s commitment to an inclusive approach to the use of these funds has meant that my officials were regularly consulted on their use under the Low Carbon High Growth SPF programme. I look forward to forthcoming announcements on how the FCO’s programme funding will be organised in the future and my officials stand ready to give relevant input where required.

The FCO’s commitment to the climate change agenda has been further supported by the appointment of the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative. He has played a critical role in our progress by setting out the compelling case for low carbon growth and to create the international political conditions necessary for action to prevent dangerous climate change. He has ensured that there is consistent engagement from FCO Ministers and officials in climate diplomacy which plays an important role in our joint efforts to ensure that we achieve a UN global binding deal which agrees effective action against climate change. 

7 February 2011