Climate change was more central than ever at this year’s Munich Security Conference (MSC), the leading international forum for senior military, security and foreign policy leaders. The release of the inaugural “World Climate and Security Report 2020” (WCSR 2020) by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) should help policymakers take effective action.
The mission of the Munich Security Conference is to “address the world’s most pressing security concerns”. These days, that means climate security: climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier, and anyone discussing food security, political instability, migration, or competition over resources should be aware of the climate change pressures that are so often at the root of security problems.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.
Climate change will shift key coordinates of foreign policy in the coming years and decades. Even now, climate policy is more than just environment policy; it has long since arrived at the centre of foreign policy. The German Foreign Office recently released a report on climate diplomacy recognizing the biggest challenges to security posed by climate change and highlighting fields of action for strengthening international climate diplomacy.
If you have even a passing familiarity with the climate and security literature, you undoubtedly have come across the phrase “threat multiplier.” The phrase conveys the idea that climate change intersects with other factors to contribute to security problems. It’s used as short-hand to avoid the charge of environmental determinism, that climate change somehow on its own causes negative security outcomes.
Environmental peacebuilding is a good idea. As a practice, it aims to address simultaneously environmental problems and challenges related to violent conflict. Examples include the promotion of environmental cooperation between rival states, conflict-sensitive adaptation to climate change, and restoring access to land and water in post-conflict societies. However, environmental peacebuilding can negatively affect development, chip away at environmental protection, and erode peace. In new study, Tobias Ide highlights six different aspects of the dark side of environmental peacebuilding.
The momentum for climate action we are witnessing is extraordinary. Throughout 2019, millions of people took the streets all around the world to join the youth climate movement's school strike. Yet at this year’s most important climate politics meeting, the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, most governments were far from committing to sufficient action to avert dangerous climate change. Dr. Beatrice Mosello and Dr. Virginie Le Masson explain how to move things forward.
If the United Nations is to effectively deal with climate-related security risks, it needs expert support from every region. That’s where the Climate Security Expert Network comes in.
Nobody needs to be convinced that climate change affects our very existence and security. However, experts are interested to know how climate change affects security at a global level and what the EU can do in that regard. This was the main aim of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) Climate Change and Security Course co-organised by the French Institute for Higher National Defence Studies (IHEDN) and adelphi, as part of the Climate Diplomacy initiative supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, which took place in Brussels from 21 to 23 October 2019.
European peatlands could turn from carbon sinks to sources as a quarter have reached levels of dryness unsurpassed in a record stretching back 2,000 years, according to a new study. This trend of “widespread” and “substantial” drying corresponds to recent climate change, both natural and human-caused, but may also be exacerbated by the peatlands being used for agriculture and fuel.
International political boundaries are arbitrary creations. Today’s borders are better described as imaginary lines on maps, rather than hard barriers between states. Often using mountains, rivers, or other geographical landmarks, modern borders are entrenched in historic tradition rather than logic and fact. As a result, today’s international borders are poorly equipped to handle modern challenges, in particular climate change, which has already begun to threaten the most important state resource, fresh water.
“It is time to do more than just talk about sustainability. It is time to act sustainably,” said Heiko Maas during his speech at the General Debate of the 74th United Nations General Assembly. Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs highlighted the need for multilateral cooperation to achieve worldwide sustainability, as well as Germany's focus on climate-security, women, and disarmament and arms control as part of its agenda in the UN Security Council.
Policymakers and emergency managers tend to build a conceptual wall between natural hazards and terrorism. The causes of—and remedies for—these two kinds of disasters are seen as separate and distinct. But, in the era of climate change, the wall between the two is crumbling. As climate and weather patterns shift, the resulting environmental crisis is being leveraged as a tool for terror and political violence.
In the Inner Mongolian county of Horinger, Northwestern China, afforestation efforts have transformed a barren, dusty landscape into a pine forest. Planting trees has diminished the sandstorms, boosted biodiversity and improved the environment generally. As the climate emergency worsens, the potential for planted trees to draw carbon out of the atmosphere is being re-examined. What can the world learn from the Chinese experience with afforestation?
Two events in August 2019 underlined the complexity of paving the way to a climate-neutral world: the publishing of the new IPCC report and the Amazon fires. Both events demand that climate diplomats move beyond a narrowed focus on energy in decarbonisation debates.