Over the past year, China has demonstrated a narrative shift with regards to the links between climate change, security and conflict. China has traditionally framed the security dimensions from a developmental perspective, where it recognises climate change as a non-traditional security issue which can impact human security and risk communal conflicts. For example, China’s third Climate Change Assessment report, highlights the risk of increasing impacts on food and water security of its citizens, but that transboundary and international security threats of climate change are “mainly latent”. However, Zhou notes that China is gradually demonstrating a shift in thinking. At the Arria-formula UNSC debate in November 2016, on water, peace and security, Ambassador Liu Jieyi stated that the problem of water “is not only a developmental issue, it has a bearing on peace and security”. Further, similar language was used in the June 2017 UNSC session on preventative diplomacy and transboundary waters. China is also taking steps towards action: by becoming the world’s largest investors in renewable energy, increasing foreign direct investments in the technologies by 60% since 2015.
The notion of Russia’s environmental security has been discussed at the strategic policy level, and in April 2017, President Putin approved the first Environmental Security Strategy since 2002. The Executive Order defines environmental security ‘as an essential component of national security’, with climate change as one of four long term threats to the Russian federation and the planet. Yet in contrast to China, Russia has resisted any reference to the peace and security implications of climate change in UNSC debates, stating that “our delegation has earlier repeatedly expressed doubts about the advisability of involving the Security Council in various issues… including natural resources which, in and of themselves are neutral in nature”. Interestingly however in the country’s ‘Food Security Doctrine’, the government does pay heed to the potential impacts of climate change vis-à-vis global food security. Alongside this, Putin has voiced ambitions to become “the world’s largest producer of food”, which implies an awareness of the power Russia could continue to accumulate as a major food exporter in a climate of increasing concern around global food insecurity.
Australia has made significant steps in 2017. A new report – ‘Disaster Alley’ – stated “Australia’s political, bureaucratic and corporate leaders are abrogating their fiduciary responsibilities to safeguard the people and their future well-being. They are ill-prepared for the real risks of climate change at home and in the region”. The Senate passed a motion for an inquiry into the threats and long-term risks posed by climate change to national and international security. Just two months later, former Defence Force Chief, Admiral Barrie, informed the inquiry in the strongest possible terms, that “We know that of seven continents Australia is likely to be the continent most affected a changing climate….urgent action is needed to head off the potentially disastrous consequences of failing to take decisive action to deal with the earth environment, if the unacceptable probability is that the legacy we will leave to our children, and their children, is their extinction.”. Other scientists in the inquiry criticised Australia for a lack of political leadership on a critical security matter, and called on the government to out in place a taskforce to act fast.
The Lake Chad Basin is facing one of the world’s largest current humanitarian crisis with approximately 10.7 million people in need of immediate assistance. While the current crisis was triggered by violence linked to the Boko Haram extremist group, the situation has deep roots in longstanding developmental challenges, namely decades of political marginalisation of the communities around Lake Chad. In addition, the region also faces significant environmental stresses, including prolonged drought.
The security challenges resulting from local resource conflicts, large-scale violence from terrorist groups, and migration are particularly strong where economic opportunities are limited and the state’s authority and legitimacy are weak – nurturing a vicious cycle of fragility and armed violence. As insurgencies from Boko Haram have increasingly spread from Nigeria to Cameroon, Niger and Chad, the already fragile security situation in the region has become more strained. The impacts of climate change on state and societies around Lake Chad will further exacerbate these pressures.
Given this tense situation the international community, donors and national governments have started a number of initiatives during the last months targeted at increasing resilience and addressing climate-fragility risks in the region.
In February 2017 Norway hosted the Oslo Humanitarian Summit on Nigeria and Lake Chad region, together with Nigeria, Germany and the UN. The aim of the summit was to mobilise greater international involvement and increased funding for humanitarian efforts to prevent the situation from deteriorating further. Donors pledged US$672million of the US$1.6billion humanitarian assistance required. US$ 458 million has already been committed for the humanitarian response in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region for 2017. The outcomes of the Summit include an agreement by donors to address medium- and long-term development needs and identify durable solutions for the affected people, to avoid escalating the crisis further. The need to consult on a wider range of preventive and stabilisation measures to enable development was also flagged.
Following a mission to the region in January 2017, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on security in Lake Chad in March. The resolution includes a strong reference to climate-security risks and calls for adequate risk assessments and management strategies. The resolution also called for a report by the UN Secretary General on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin. The report, published in September 2017 underscores the overwhelming scale of the crisis, and the need for urgent and immediate humanitarian responses. But unlike the findings of the UNSC mission and its resolution, which clearly and strongly set out climate change as a significant driver of risk, the SG’s report on Lake Chad fails to make any reference to climate dimensions of the crisis at all. It also does not go as far as thinking about a long-term solution to the crisis, focusing instead on humanitarian responses.
Building on these developments and following-up on the recommendations of the G7 commissioned report A New Climate For Peace, a G7 commissioned integrated risk assessment of the Lake Chad region is currently underway, with German, French and Dutch support.
The objective of the assessment, which will draw substantially from the knowledge of local partners, is to identify linked risks and resilience dimensions as well as substantive policy recommendations for foreign policy makers on entry points for engagement in the region, and effective modes of dialogue with the responsible governments in this region. The main output will be a G7 commissioned assessment report on the Lake Chad region that gives recommendations on what kind of activities could be implemented and how existing policies, strategies and initiatives could be improved. Climate-fragility profiles for policy makers and implementing agencies are another envisaged result of the assessment, formulated to provide a brief overview of the context and serving as grounding for the main climate-fragility assessment. In addition, as part of the assessment, targeted policy briefs will be drafted, providing tailored policy recommendations for specific donors or implementing agencies. The overall process of the risk assessment will draw substantially on the knowledge of local partners, and conduct substantive dialogues and consultations in the region and beyond.
During the last year, the UN Security Council has continued to debate the adverse effects of climate change. This has included the debate on “Water, peace and security” in November 2016 chaired by Senegal and the Arria-formula meeting on “Security Implications of Climate Change: Sea Level Rise” in April 2017 organised by Ukraine. The debate on “Water, peace and security” was followed by a briefing on “Preventive diplomacy and transboundary water management” in June 2017.
Despite a growing concern about climate change as a “threat multiplier” to international peace and security, until UN Resolution 2349 on Lake Chad, March 2017, these debates had not yet influenced any resolutions adopted. The resolution on the Lake Chad is a significant step towards acknowledging that the impact of climate change has a place in the prevention agenda that Secretary-General Guterres has been pushing since taking office. It also signals scope for a more proactive role for the UN Security Council, which not only involves responding to adverse effects of climate change, but also in mitigating these risks, as also illustrated by the Security Council Presidential Statement taken in August 2017 regarding the famine in Africa.
Resolution 2349’s call for adequate risk assessment and risk management builds upon the Presidential Statement made in 2011. This statement highlighted that conflict analysis and contextual information on the possible security implications of climate change is important to the Security Council and that the Secretary-General should “ensure that his reporting to the Council contains such contextual information.” Currently, this capacity is missing in the UN system. This lack of capacity was most recently noted by several experts after the Secretary General’s presented his report on Lake Chad in September 2017. This reinforces the proposition made by Sweden, in its capacity of being an elected member in the UN Security Council 2017-2018, on the establishment of a small unit in the SG office that can provide adequate information to the SG and to his reporting to the UNSC. In a similar vein, in September 2017, the then Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders proposed a designated UN special envoy for climate and security. These propositions correspond to the long-standing request from the SIDS-countries for the Security Council to develop a more proactive approach. Importantly, the establishment of such a unit does not diminish the role of other UN bodies’ responsibilities for addressing adverse effects of climate change. Instead, it illustrates that the UN-system takes the adverse effects of climate change seriously and looks to evolve into an organisation fit to face current challenges as well as those that lie ahead.
The joint communication “A strategic approach to resilience in the EU’s external action” was presented to the European Parliament and the Council in June 2017. The EU’s global resilience strategy is a follow-up to the EU global strategy which was launched one year earlier and identifies strengthening state and societal resilience as central to addressing current global challenges.
This focus on resilience shows a significant shift in the EU’s management of risks and impacts of shocks and pressures in its external policy - the need to move away from crisis containment to a more structural, long-term, but flexible approach that is better risk-informed and less instrument-driven. The aim is to combine political dialogue, sectoral policy dialogue, technical and financial assistance in an effective way.
The aim of the Resilience Strategy is to identify how a strategic approach to resilience can increase the impact of EU external action, as well as strengthening resilience within the Union. The strategy explicitly stresses the interlinkage between climate change, natural disasters and environmental degradation as well as their impact on the resilience of communities. The document also claims that the EU’s future external policy will reinforce the political outreach on the issue through the G7 working group on Climate and Fragility and the Green Diplomacy Network.
Other noteworthy aspects of the strategy are the recommended integrated approach to resilience dimension, the importance given to promoting resilience to climate change, and the sustainable management of natural resources.
However, implementation of the strategy is facing a number of operational challenges. The proposed change in policy set out in the strategy requires a rethink of the EU’s risk analysis, design of programmes and assessment methods. The resilience strategy suggests four basic building-blocks to incorporate a resilience approach systematically into the EU’s external action:
According to the strategy, the EU will reinforce its political outreach, for example through the Green Diplomacy Network and the G7 working group on Climate and Fragility. This is both positive and pragmatic and provides the opportunity to put the issue higher on the political agenda. Whilst the focus of the EU’s 2016 Global Strategy on resilience faced some scepticism due to the perceived ambiguity and amorphous nature of the concept, the 2017 Resilience Strategy has been broadly welcomed, with the concept of resilience seen as an opportunity for approaches which focus on and strengthen local capacities.
In September 2017, Heads of State and Government came together to discuss, for the first time at the global level within the UN General Assembly, issues related to migration and refugees. This sent an important political message that migration and refugee matters have become major issues in the international agenda.
In adopting the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the 193 UN Member States recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level and committed to (inter alia):
Integrate migrants – addressing their needs and capacities as well as those of receiving communities – in humanitarian and development assistance frameworks and planning;
Develop, through a state-led process, non-binding principles and voluntary guidelines on the treatment of migrants in vulnerable situations; and
Strengthen global governance of migration, including by bringing IOM into the UN family and through the development of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration
This is good news, but there are major gaps from the climate-security perspective. The Global Compact makes no reference to internally displaced peoples, nor does it look forward to the risks presented by climate change and natural disasters. To achieve the goals of the Global Compact, implementation efforts need to recognise climate change related insecurity as a contributory factor to and consequence of migration, as well as the implications of these risks on the contributions of migrants to sustainable development. In short, climate-fragility risks must feature in strategies to address the root causes as well as sustainable management strategies for migration.
The Fijian presidency of the 2017 annual UN Climate Summit, COP 23, showed leadership in advancing global dialogues on the risks of climate change – particularly for SIDS. There are however several key issues and concerns surrounding COP 23. The most discussed concern is – will countries continue to build ambition collectively since the United States has pulled out?
In the run up to COP 23, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinoza, has made key interventions, through articles and speeches, on the linkages between climate change and security. She emphasised in her speech to the Munich Security Conference that in order to set a path towards global stability, “Key to getting on this path is framing climate change as a security story”. At the time of writing it is yet to be seen to what extent the concerns around climate-fragility risks will be discussed at the 2017 COP but there are no explicit discussions scheduled on the official agenda.
The twelfth G20 Summit took place in Hamburg, 7–8 July 2017, under the German Presidency’s slogan of ‘shaping an interconnected world’. For the first time, the Summit put a geographic focus on Africa, driven by the food security and migration ‘crisis’ in north and east Africa. G20 members outlined sustainable development and achieving the SDGs as their guiding principles, and mandated a working group to advance action on this.
The Development Working Group of the G20 is now mandated to act as a forum for sustainable development dialogue between G20 members, low income and developing countries, development stakeholders (including non-governmental) and G20 engagement groups. The Development Working Group released the ‘Hamburg Update’, the Annual Progress Report on G20 Development Commitments in July 2017. One section explicitly focusses on ‘the environmental dimension: combatting climate change’. It stresses the G20’s responsibility for addressing climate change, as they are responsible for up 75% of global emissions. The report underscores the need to support climate finance – particularly climate finance that is nationally appropriate and demand-led. However the report notes a significant action gap in this area – which has led to the launching of a new ‘Sustainability Working Group’. They commend the OECD’s new Centre on Green Finance and Investment, set up to ‘help catalyse and support the transition to a green, low-emissions, and climate-resilient economy’. Furthermore a Green Investment Financing Forum is scheduled on October 10-11 2017.
Another area of key concern for the G20’s Development Working Group in 2017 has been rural livelihoods, especially in Africa and in regions affected by fragility and climate change impacts. It commissioned a study on ‘Rural Youth Employment’ by the World Bank and IFAD, published in July 2017. It found that there was need to stimulate demand from national governments for, “investment in complementary infrastructure; raise agricultural productivity growth and climate resilience to stimulate demand for non-farm goods and services”. Secondly it emphasised that “climate change and the effects of climate shocks are dampening the prospects for future productivity growth. Importantly the report noted the importance of ensuring livelihood security for ‘high-risk’ individuals and groups in fragile, conflict-affected and post-conflict settings – especially men and youth.
In May 2017, the first Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was held after the adoption of the Sendai Framework in 2015. The Global Platform for DRR is the main forum at the global level for strategic advice, coordination and partnership, and reviews the implementation of the international instrument on DRR including the Sendai framework. As such, the Global Platform is an important forum for receiving insights on the state-of-art of what progress that has been achieved. One fact already acknowledged in the adoption process of the Sendai Framework was that despite the link between pre-existing fragility and vulnerability and natural disaster impacts most funding is spent on emergency response. Only a very small part of disaster aid is spent to strengthen resilience in fragile settings. The UN conference in Sendai in 2015 was never able to make any strong progress on how to address this distressing reality. At the Global Platform for DRR in Cancun a few sessions were specifically focusing on vulnerabilities in fragile settings and how early warning and preventive actions can be enabled in these settings. In the Chair’s summary from the Global Platform, it was however noted that operations and maintenance budgets still remain insufficient and unreliable for these countries.
At the Global Platform for DRR, a Leader’s Forum was also held on 24 May 2017 bringing together high-level politicians, officials from intergovernmental organisations, parliamentarians, local government officials, business and civil society representatives. The Leader’s Forum focused on ensuring resilience and formed the basis for “The Cancun High-Level Communiqué”. The Communiqué emphasised the impacts from small-scale, slow-onset and recurring disasters on infrastructure, housing, livelihoods, ecosystems and economy, as well as the poor suffer disproportionally from natural and man-made disasters. The Communiqué presents commitments in which “Building Back Better” and “building better from the start” are key. However, no actions or commitments targeted the strengthening of the capacity and resilience in specific fragile and vulnerable settings. Overall, the communiqué echoes the inability of the Sendai Framework to deliver on strengthening resilience in countries and settings that are characterised by a combination of high exposure to disaster risk and weak institutional capacity.
The security implications of climate change to Australia this year have been significant. Geographically, it is in one of the most climate-vulnerable regions of the world. In anticipation of these growing risks, recent developments in Australia have put the security dimensions of climate change more firmly onto the Parliamentary and Department of Defence agenda. On 14 June 2017, the Australian Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee opened an inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security. This included a call for written submissions which received 54 entries, including from Planetary Security Initiative consortium members, and by international military and national security leaders. The submissions included a wealth of experience and expertise from the respective nations, as well as recommendations for how Australia could better prepare for climate risks to national security. While the submissions are targeted towards Australia, they are a useful resource for any nation looking to improve their resilience to climate-security risks. The submission process will be followed by a series of hearings, with a final committee report scheduled to be produced by 4 December 2017.
The call for written submissions prompted Australian government departments and agencies to consider the issue from their institutional perspectives and how the climate-security nexus pertains to their remit. In the 2000s, along with countries including the United Kingdom, United States and others, Australia’s Office of National Assessments developed policy documents and assessments of the threats climate change poses to national security. The Senate inquiry process is therefore building on an existing domestic and international foundation for better preparing for climate risks to national security.
The Australian Senate inquiry has been complemented by a robust discussion facilitated by civil society groups, both domestically and internationally. These discussions have highlighted where Australia stands, relative to Europe and North America, in terms of being prepared for these high-probability, high-impact risks. The Australian Defence Force has also continued attending and contributing to civil-society discourse through its climate engagement team within the Vice Chief of Defence Force Group. The Australian Public Service Secretaries also set up a group examining climate change.
The discussions have looked at increasing fragility and instability risks in the region, and how climate change may generate more and new types of complex emergencies that blend frequent and/or prolonged natural disasters, humanitarian crises, progressively weakened state capacities, insecurity and armed violence. They also examined threats to Australian Defence Force installations related to sea level rise and drought, and how ADF capacity may be strained as climate change generates multiple disasters of sufficient magnitude in geographically separate locations: cyclones in the South Pacific, floods in Queensland and bushfires and drought in the south-east and west – what the military call the risk of ‘simultaneity’.
The Senate inquiry process is an important step in reaffirming concern about the security implications of climate change among Australia’s political leaders. The policy outcomes and impact of the inquiry will depend in part on its success in broadening that concern within the Australian Parliament, which may in turn support senior leadership within the Department of Defence and other departments and agencies to incorporate climate into their risk management policies and practices. More widespread recognition of the security dimensions and risks Australia faces could fix climate change within the country’s security architecture, particularly in the lead-up to the next Federal election in 2019. This in turn could influence the approach taken by other actors in the region toward managing climate-security risks.
Climate change has been appearing regularly in discussions at international security fora such as the Munich Security Conference, Asia Security Summit (Shangri-La Dialogue), Halifax International Security Forum and others, as well as in meetings of regional security bodies such as ASEAN and NATO. While it has been rare in recent years for climate change to not be raised in some form at these events, either during speeches or as part of panels on or related to the topic, the nature of the discussions thus far have not been commensurate with this high-probability, high-impact security threat. The discussions have also not fully accounted for how climate change interacts with other pressing international security priorities. In order to enable security planners and institutions to appropriately calibrate their responses, a frank discussion is needed about how climate change is reshaping the geostrategic landscape, and how prepared (or not) states are for managing these risks.
For example, climate change has risen up the agenda of the Munich Security Conference since 2014, the first year that climate change itself, rather than other forms of environmental degradation or stress, was on the agenda. In 2016, the Ewald von Kleist peace award was given to then-UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and former French minister of Foreign Affairs and COP 21 president Laurent Fabius, who framed the Paris climate agreement as a peace agreement. While the sessions this year and last, were described as “climate security” much of the discussion was about climate as an “environmental” issue and centred on development issues and the importance of fulfilling commitments to the Paris agreement, rather than incorporating climate change into a broader security context.
The Halifax International Security Fora have included climate risks in their agenda in some form since their first event in 2009, including a panel last year on Climate Security, Energy Security and the Politics of Slow Moving Threats. Climate change is often recognized as a security issue at the Shangri-La Dialogue, but has been included on the Summit agenda primarily as a matter of humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Moving security communities, particularly in Asia-Pacific, beyond a disaster framing of the security dimensions of climate change, toward appreciating the geostrategic and fragility risks they face, is essential to preparing, anticipating and managing these threats.
These gatherings are important in shaping the international security discourse – both what is on the agenda and how it is discussed. They like to look at both the long term trends and the immediate crises. Climate risks are going to get sharper and therefore discussions of the associated security ramifications are imperative in order to get ahead of the curve and not always be responding to impacts after the fact. These international conferences are an important place to discuss climate risk as this ensures the relevance of their discussions and helps to lay the groundwork for substantively addressing this driver of risk.