This report takes stock of key developments since the publishing of the independent report A New Climate for Peace commissioned by G7 members. It provides a concise risk horizon scan for 2015 and 2016, and an overview and assessment of key policy developments in 2015 and 2016 that are of relevance for addressing climate-fragility risks.
In 2015 A New Climate for Peace compiled the evidence that was available about how climate change was interacting with other features of the social, economic and political landscape to contribute, in some places and some cases, to instability, insecurity, low level conflicts and worse. Developments in 2015 and 2016 confirm that assessment.
In regards to climate change, a series of temperature records and the growing number and severity of extreme weather events in 2015 and 2016 illustrate what it might mean to leave the planet’s safe operating space. In parallel we have witnessed an unstable international political context. The Middle East remains in turmoil and neither regional nor global efforts to mitigate the violent conflicts seem to have much effect. The number of armed conflicts has risen back to the level that it was in the early 1990s, blowing away the gains of two decades of peacebuilding efforts. There is a historically high level of refugees and internally displaced people. Relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated and remain fraught because of Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. These geopolitical rivalries have intensified in the past five years and became particularly sharp in the last two. Overall, the intersection of accelerating impacts of climate change, the continuing increase in numbers of armed conflicts and deepening geopolitical rivalries create a deeply unsettling new normal.
At the same time, and much more positively, the international community has shown that it can act together to address global problems. The Agenda 2030, the Paris Agreement, the World Humanitarian Summit, and Habitat III and its New Urban Agenda all show that there are efforts to find a viable change strategy. This is mirrored by activities of the G7, within the UN Security council and its wider peacebuilding architecture, the African Union, and the European Union that acknowledge and try to specifically address climate-fragility risks.
As always, the devil is in the details – specifically, the details of implementation. Deficiencies in terms of ambition aside, there are two global agreements in 2015 that set the framework for immediate work on global resilience– the Paris Agreement on climate change and the adoption of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. There are three key challenges to that framework and its practical implementation.
The first is the importance of integration. The point of integration is that, while parallel actions by different agencies (and different departments within them) may be directed at the right goals, opportunities for synergy will be lost, the probability of duplicating effort is quite high, and the risks in terms of unintended negative effects increase. Integration, in short, is an efficiency measure.
The second challenge for the global resilience agenda lies in the realm of geopolitics. It would not be a viable political agenda to insist on geopolitical rivalries taking second place to the requirements of planetary security. What is reasonable is to argue that environmental sustainability is now a geopolitical interest. For the good of the environment, as part of planetary security, effort is needed on all sides to handle current geopolitical rivalries as peacefully, constructively and cooperatively as possible.
The third challenge lies at national level. If there is a roll back in key countries such as the US of the tenuous near-consensus on climate change that made the Paris Agreement possible, that will inevitably have a direct effect on the potential for implementing a global resilience agenda.
On the basis of this survey and discussion of recent developments in climate-fragility risk and response, we offer the following three recommendations and priorities for the next 12 month to governments and other actors who recognise the risks of climate-fragility:
It is a truism to state that a set of recommendations like these – a task like the one that faces us to address climate-fragility risks – requires leadership. In times when there is a real risk of roll back and losing what has been achieved, leadership will have to be provided by all committed actors. It is the collective responsibility of governments, inter-governmental organisations, NGOs, research centres and individuals who have signed up to take these ideas forward.