There is increasing evidence that climate change is undermining livelihoods, food and water security in rural and urban areas around the world, thereby acting as a “threat multiplier” in fragile and conflict-prone situations. In light of this, the Berlin Climate and Security Conference, which took place at the German Federal Foreign Office on 4 June 2019, aimed at increasing the momentum for decisive action to address climate-related drivers of conflict.
Governments must invest new effort and money to prevent climate change from driving new conflicts, according to a diplomatic statement drafted by the German foreign office.
For researchers looking into global security dynamics, it is becoming increasingly difficult to overlook climate change as a threat multiplier in conflict situations. While climate change may not directly cause conflict, it may be inextricably woven into pre-existing conflicts of power, ethnicity, and economic interest. Understading the role of climate-related impacts on security is therefore crucial for global peace.
The foreign policy community faces a choice. It can continue to allow unacceptable levels of violence and conflict to undermine individual countries and the global order. Or it can build a new consensus that violence is a preventable epidemic. This would take seriously a growing body of evidence showing what is most likely to work to steer the world back toward global peace, resilient societies, and more sustainable prosperity.
Every change, no matter how small, can cause larger changes elsewhere. The radical socio-ecological transformation envisioned under the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires anticipating and managing trade-offs, and the diplomatic cadre will have a significant role to play in maximising synergies, mitigating adverse knock-on consequences and developing strategies for mutual benefit.
A new publication on SDGs and foreign policy, prepared by researchers at the German think tank adelphi, highlights a phenomenon I call this the ‘Great Splintering’ – the fracturing of political will for collective action on the global stage. This article outlines five steps we could take to revive multilateralism.