The German Federal Foreign Office, in partnership with adelphi and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), hosted the Berlin Climate and Security Conference on 4 June 2019. This invitation-only high-level conference brought together leading figures from governments, international organisations, the private sector, civil society, and the scientific community to discuss the growing risks that climate change presents for peace and security, and the need for quick and decisive action to prevent and minimise climate-related conflict and instability.
Germany has made the link between climate change and security policy a top priority for its two-year term (2019-2020) as a UN Security Council (UNSC) elected member. Despite the increasing salience of this topic, it is currently lacking a proper institutional home that could offer support and advice on how to systematically address climate-related security risks. Yet thanks to the efforts of several recent UNSC member states, including the Netherlands and Sweden in particular, the past two years have witnessed growing support for a greater focus on the related threats, with several UNSC resolutions calling for risk assessments and risk management strategies regarding the adverse implications of climate change in specific regional contexts.
To further strengthen UN engagement on the issue and help enable the UN to better respond to these risks, Germany, together with Nauru, established the Group of Friends on Climate and Security within the United Nations on 1 August 2018. In support of the Group of Friends, adelphi, on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office, is acting as the Secretariat for the Climate and Security Expert Network. This international network with some 40 experts from around the globe supports the Group of Friends and the Climate Security Mechanism of the UN system by synthesising scientific knowledge and expertise, by advising on entry points for building resilience to climate-security risks, and by helping to strengthen a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities of addressing climate-related security risks, thus laying the groundwork for global cooperation on this issue.
During its presidency of the UNSC in January 2019, the Dominican Republic, a member of the Group of Friends, initiated an open debate on the security implications of climate-related disasters in which more than 80 delegations took the floor, 15 of which were represented at the ministerial level. Most of the speakers highlighted the need for better climate risk management and its important contribution to safeguarding international peace and security. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas used this UNSC debate to invite his counterparts to the Berlin Climate and Security Conference on 4 June 2019.
The conference is intended as a wake-up call that the climate crisis is not just an environmental and development issue, but represents a core risk to global peace and prosperity. It highlighted the foreign policy relevance of climate policy, and the necessity of building a preventative framework for action at the global level. The conference discussed concrete preventative mechanisms that can help foreign policy actors address climate-related security risks, which include conflict over natural resources, impending food shortages, and territorial losses due to sea-level rise.
To this end, the conference programme included roundtable discussions on critical aspects of the climate-change and security nexus, including migration and displacement, socio-economic conflicts and fragile states.