Climate change has been identified and recognized as a security issue and a threat multiplier by the international community, and climate security is now an integral part of security agendas in key international fora from New York to The Hague and Munich. As 2019 kicks off, action and implementation on climate security take centre stage.
As of 1 January 2019, Germany’s two year mandate at the UN Security Council is officially underway. The country’s commitment to advance climate security was reinforced at the Council’s open debate on 25 January. This promising pledge to the climate and foreign policy community was recently backed up by the council’s current presidency, the Dominican Republic. The island country is familiar with the security impacts of extreme weather events – remnants of the destruction left by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017 can still be seen today.
The influence of Germany as a powerful global player and the endorsement of the UN Security Council presidency indicate that climate security might be placed higher on the Council’s agenda for the coming two years. In addition, fellow newly elected members Belgium, South Africa and Indonesia have also anchored climate change under the priorities for their respective mandates. Besides the convincing work that will be required to bring all members on board, it is still debatable as to whether the UN Security Council has the expertise, mandate and resources to address climate-related security risks.
In February, two important events on global security will take place: the Munich Security Conference (MSC) and the Planetary Security Conference (PSC). Although little is known about the specific focus points to be discussed in Munich, there are good reasons to expect climate change will be among the priority issues. In its last two editions, climate security was on the agenda, and last year’s report officially recognized the severe security implications of climate-related impacts. Following her participation at the MSC, Greenpeace International’s Executive Director Jennifer Morgan wrote about the opportunity of sharing environmental and climate-related security concerns to the heads of state, highlighting the forum’s opportunity to “engage directly with the security and foreign policy communities to address this threat with the attention, and funding and expertise that it has for other threats since the founding of the conference some 50 years ago”. On April 2018, the MSC has hosted a Human Security Roundtable at the Tana High-Level Forum on African Security on the topic ‘Countering the consequences of climate change’, signalling that the forum is bringing climate issues into focus.
The Planetary Security Conference, on the other hand, brings forward a clear climate security agenda. Since 2016, the PSC has been setting itself as the institutional home to the climate security debate, leading to the launch of the Hague Declaration, whose progress review will be presented in the upcoming edition. Furthermore, this year’s PSC – titled ‘#Doable’ – will highlight action and implementation, with thematic focus on the contribution of land and climate policies to peace, urban risks and instability and the geopolitics of energy transition. Its regional focus will be on Iraq, Lake Chad, Mali and the Caribbean Small Island Developing States.
With so much momentum, this start to the year presents a unique opportunity for the international community to drive the climate security agenda forward and initiate climate-sensitive conflict prevention and mitigation work on the ground.