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EU high-level event on climate, peace and security mobilises partners from around the world

27 June, 2018
European Union External Action

EU HLPF climate security peace.jpg

High-level event 'Climate, Security and Peace: the Time for Action' | © EEAS/Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini hosted on 22 June 2018 an unprecedented high level event - Climate, Peace and Security: The Time for Action - which drove home both the urgency and importance of tackling the risks that climate change poses to security and peace. Ministers from around the world, top United Nations officials, and leading experts testified to the many real and potential security threats deriving from climate change.

"Here in Europe, experience tells us that peace and security are not only about peace treaties and defence budgets. Peace has to be sustainable in time. And sustainable peace requires good jobs, decent access to natural resources, and sustainable development. Sustainable peace needs climate action…So let us keep this in mind: when we invest in the fight against climate change, we invest in our own security."
– High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini (full speech here)

Participants highlighted a set of clear challenges, from tensions over increasingly scarce resources to the forced movement of people in search of usable land and water. They provided compelling evidence that the world is witnessing relentless increases in extreme weather events, accelerated desertification and the steady depletion of resources upon which millions of livelihoods depend. All of these trends multiply the risk of instability and conflict if left unchecked.

“Climate security is not some abstract concept for us, climate change is already the greatest threat to our island nation…without global action to increase the ambition of our climate targets by 2020, we are barrelling towards a massive new global security crisis of our own making.  It is time we move from words to action. This means making our multilateral system fit for purpose [including by] heeding the Pacific’s call for a new Special Representative for Climate Security, and establishing a dedicated unit within UN Headquarters. The EU has a big opportunity to continue to lead in addressing the greatest threat to global security.”

– David Paul, Environment Minister, Marshall Islands

Through keynote presentations and panel debate, participants in 'Climate, Peace and Security: The Time for Action' also identified how best to manage the security threats posed by climate change. They looked at ways to reduce vulnerability, by strengthening the resilience of communities and states so that they can anticipate and manage climate risks before they become critical.

Many called for enhanced multilateral cooperation to deal with climate and security. The breakthrough Paris Agreement on Climate and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are key achievements, but work is needed for them to deliver on their promise. Aligning the implementation of both, on the ground, is vital in order to accelerate progress.

"The Paris Agreement is a milestone, and all parties should take concrete actions and fulfil their commitments. China will further accelerate ecological civilization construction and green low-carbon transition. Meanwhile, China will work with all the others to address climate change, promote sustainable development, and protect the Planet Earth, the only home of human beings."

– Xie Zhenhua, Special Representative for Climate, China

Participants also recognized a shared "responsibility to prepare" for climate impacts on security. Some of those impacts are already known, even felt, others less predictable; some are gradual and others sudden. What is certain is that the world faces increasing climate risks, but that if we pool our resources effectively, we also have unprecedented capacity for foresight and early warning.

"In order to protect lives and properties from increasing risks of climate change especially on natural disasters, all stakeholders such as national and local governments, business and civil society so as to avoid and minimize the damage through adequate adaptation measures."

– Naomi Tokashiki, State Minister of Environment, Japan

In the discussion on integrating action on climate, security and development, participants highlighted that the key to sustainable development is not the sum of traditional development, security and climate policies. It is about combining the policies and responses to ensure the best possible impact, tailored to different geographical situations, and delivered on multiple levels. No matter how much states, donors and development partners invest in promoting economic and social development as a means to prevent conflict and sustain peace and security, if climate risks are left out of the equation, much of that effort may be in vain.

“There is a clear link between the impacts of climate change and global security [...]. Climate change acts a threat multiplier, making many of the biggest challenges humanity faces even worse. The way forward is for the world to deliver on the promises contained in both the Paris Agreement and the UNs Sustainable Development Goals.

– Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Director UNFCCC

Throughout the discussion, participants highlighted a series of points for further action, to make the fight against climate change a means of sustaining peace, averting conflict and reducing the risk of deadly climate-related natural disasters.

“First, we need to address water issues. Water management and diplomacy can help us relieve water stress and sea level rise [...]. “We should further create a Marshall plan on solar energy. The Sahel holds an enormous opportunity for solar energy, which can help green and uplift the area. And finally, we need to assist Africa in getting urbanization right – to be sustainable and relieve stress on resources like land, food, and natural resourced.”

– Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, when proposing three actions to address the climate-security nexus

"The international community must understand the security threats associated with climate change. Floods and droughts force people to flee, they affect food security and livelihoods. Island populations’ entire habitats are disappearing. We must develop our tools and invest in climate action. The UN must step up and lead global efforts together with regional partners such as the EU."

– Margot Wallstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sweden

The high level event concluded an intense week of European Union climate diplomacy, including the Ministerial meeting on Climate Action, co-chaired by Canada, China and the EU in Brussels on 20-21 June, and numerous activities carried out by EU Delegations around the world as part of  European Climate Diplomacy Week.


Six points for further action


Elevate climate-security nexus to highest political level in national, regional and multilateral fora

Today's institutions and processes must be adapted for tomorrow's battles, equipped to take up all the challenges of climate change. Reform can deliver with leadership from the top – by the UN, by regional organisations, by heads of state and government. Incorporating climate-security factors into strategic-level policy frameworks and practical guidance at national, regional and multilateral levels is a first step. Expanding diplomatic efforts can remove or alleviate factors of conflict among countries that share climate sensitive resources, such as water and agricultural land, or that have to manage spill-over effects of security implications of climate change, including forced displacement.

Deploy maximum political and diplomatic efforts to support Paris Agreement implementation

As the challenge of addressing and living with climate change unfolds, we need to better use and adapt our powerful economic, political and diplomatic tools. The Paris Agreement is the first line of defence against security threats from climate change and it is thus important to harness and strengthen the Paris Agreement to address the causes and manifestations of climate security. It is about strengthening Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris agreement and making them more conflict-sensitive. Mobilizing and reorienting international and domestic resources as well as greening the economic and financial system are necessary steps to address the challenges of climate change and climate security risks.

Mobilise and improve reporting and early warning systems - focusing on most exposed countries and regions

Development prospects are increasingly shaped by the converging drivers of climate and conflict. By 2030, more than 60 % of the world’s poor will live in fragile and crisis contexts. Assessing and anticipating climate risks in the most fragile situations should be our priority, which risk being caught in a spiral of conflict and climate disaster. Thorough and timely reporting, directly from the ground, and enhanced existing early warning systems, will allow us to identify changes in natural processes, such as droughts and floods, and anticipate potential knock on impacts on socio-economic stability.

Put the premium on prevention: building state and societal resilience

Prevention is always better and more cost effective. As exemplified by the commitment by the UN-World Bank framework to build resilience and sustain peace in conflict areas and by the EU Global Strategy's focus on resilience, it is all about addressing the root causes of conflicts at the same time as their symptoms. To realize this, a premium needs to be put on prevention in domestic policies and international cooperation, rooted in sustainable livelihoods and equitable use of natural resources, informed by early warning systems. Integrated assessments, stronger information sharing and multi-stakeholder involvement in prevention, resilience building and adaptation serve as cross cutting priorities in addressing peacebuilding and climate risks.

Promote the role of women as agents of social, economic and political change

Women are too often disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As key providers of daily livelihood, as farmers and educators, women's voices and influence can accelerate lasting transformational solutions for sustainable development, shaping equitable policies and resource allocation. Empowering women as one of the drivers of economic growth strengthens societal resilience.  By harnessing women's roles as agents of change, the adoption of lower carbon lifestyles and passing on “green values” to the next generation can be accelerated. Enhancing the socio-economic rights and status of women not only rectifies their disproportionate vulnerability to climate change impacts, but also gives them a greater say in shaping policies and prioritising how climate finance is used.

Make action on the ground a source of sustainability, strength and peace

The impacts of climate change are cross-cutting and no policy – be it preventive, humanitarian or post-conflict – can be successful without addressing the development, climate and security dimensions at the same time. This is the essence of the integrated approach. Through development actions domestically and through international cooperation, it is possible to harness the capacity of cooperating over shared resources or common challenges to bring peace dividends. Making optimal use of early warning capabilities is therefore crucial to inform timely decision-making on the most effective integrated actions through socio-economic development programmes which enhance both ecological and societal resilience.


[This article originally appeared on]

ArticleClimate Diplomacy
Climate Change
Climate Diplomacy
Early Warning & Risk Analysis
Environment & Migration
Land & Food
Sustainable Transformation

Global Issues


Adaptation & Resilience

All countries will need to adapt to some of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. Food security, livelihoods, water resource availability and public health are some affected areas. People living in poverty are more vulnerable, having a lower capacity to adapt. Thus, it is essential to promote resilience building. The adaptation and resilience aspects need to be mainstreamed into planning by policy makers and the private sector as well as integrated into development strategies.

Biodiversity & Livelihoods

Nature protection is most sustainable if it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Today many regions around the world are confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and the foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in turn forces the affected populations to deplete the remaining resources.

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Capacity Building

On the one hand, conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality or environmental destruction. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity and the disregard of human rights. Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources.

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Civil Society

Civil society is the first victim of environmental pollution, under-development and conflicts. Economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized population groups are particularly affected by violent conflicts as well as increasing resource degradation. Simultaneously, civil society is a fundamental pillar for implementing sustainable development. It contributes in many ways to strengthening conflict prevention and plays a significant role in the peaceful and democratic development of states. It must be supported to strengthen civil rights, adherence to human rights in general and democratic participation.

Climate Change

Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges for international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, shifting of climate zones and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. The climate problem is also directly linked to the question of future energy generation.

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Climate Diplomacy

To address the challenges posed by climate change, a new profile of climate diplomacy is evolving. This utilises a full range of policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention efforts, and humanitarian assistance, in addition to more traditional measures of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moving from a risk analysis of climate-related threats to well-timed preventive action requires a greater commitment to integrating climate change concerns into development, foreign, and security policies. Examples include strengthening diplomatic networks, building new alliances with partners, and raising awareness – not only of potentially negative climate change impacts, but also of opportunities to embark on a sustainable transformation of our societies.

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Climate action entails an array of economic, social, political and environmental co-benefits. It provides an opportunity for economic growth and new jobs. Many investments can take into account climate considerations without becoming more costly. Further important co-benefits include: improved energy security, less local air and water pollution, health benefits as well as ecosystem and biodiversity protection.

Conflict Transformation

In order to overcome the structural causes of violent conflicts and thus bring about an improvement in the framework conditions for peaceful and fair development, it is essential to have long term and broadly planned peace development and peace advancement. Various governmental and non-governmental, national and international actors and groups are involved in these processes.

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Climate change and development are inextricably linked. Climate change endangers the development agenda and has the potential to reverse development goals. Furthermore, successful mitigation of climate change heavily depends on development choices around the world. Therefore, development strategies need to be climate-compatible to provide long-term success, and there are viable policy options that support this compatibility. Many mitigation and adaptation activities can present development opportunities to developing countries and avoid the lock-in to environmentally damaging technologies.

Early Warning & Risk Analysis

The reasons for the development and escalation of conflicts and the incidence of risks are multifaceted and complex. Simultaneously, the assessment of the specific causes in the form of risk and conflict analyses can contribute to a better understanding of these processes and make it possible to provide warning of negative developments, or ideally help prevent them. In the context of natural resource use, risks and conflicts have gained increasing attention in the past years. The debate on possible future water wars is merely one example.

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The well-being of individuals, communities and nations depends on the availability of energy resources. The gap between energy supply and demand appears to be growing, making the world vulnerable to serious economic shocks. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change is one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate change and energy policy include a greater role for renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency and a stronger decentralisation of energy supply.

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Environment & Migration

The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy. In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and an improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. 

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Climate finance, from all sources, plays a key role in supporting and enabling adaptation and mitigation action as well as climate and energy innovation. The Paris Agreement ensured that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility are at the core of climate finance architecture as entities entrusted with the operation of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Increasing climate finance from all relevant public and private sources is crucial. Furthermore, much needs to be done to redirect finance flows to sustainable paths, e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies, introducing maritime and air transportation taxes. The conditions for green investment in developing countries should also be improved.


Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Competition for forest resources triggers, exacerbates, or finances numerous crises and conflicts in tropical developing countries. Illegal logging and timber trade foster instability and sometimes violent conflict by strengthening illegal and armed groups, increasing corruption and exacerbating use and claim conflicts among local communities, the state and the business sector. Forests are a vital resource to poor people but they can also become areas of conflict. Sustainable management of forest resources is therefore key to preventing violent conflict over and within forests.

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Gender plays an important role as a category of conflict for many reasons. The interlinkages between gender, environment and conflicts are complex and much research is still needed. Existing insights suggest that conflicts may worsen gender inequalities that existed before the outbreak of violence. The unequal distribution of land property rights in many parts of the world serves as an example. Moreover, women (and children) are among those most affected by both violent conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, women carry much of the burden of trying to implement rehabilitation measures after crisis events.

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Land & Food

Increasing water scarcity, desertification and crop failures due to extreme weather events are becoming more and more of a threat to global food production. While the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, food production is unable to keep pace. Due to the global food crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people reached the symbolic one billion threshold for the first time – corresponding to about 16 percent of world population. Food insecurity may be a consequence or cause of conflicts. Violent conflicts often lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and means of production, as well as to the displacement of local communities.

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Minerals & Mining

In the past, the discovery and tapping of valuable or strategic resources like valuable minerals, oil and natural gas, particularly in developing and emerging countries, has often led to large scale environmental contamination and negative development. The "resource curse" of some countries shows that the wealth from resource yields is frequently unfairly distributed; instead of serving development it advanced the formation of corrupt elites and in some cases even led to conflicts and civil wars. Measures in various sectors and at all levels are important in order to use the potential of these natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and prevents conflicts.

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Private Sector

The spread of violent conflict not only affects people but also companies located in such regions. Destruction of investments and infrastructure, collapse of markets and trade partnerships, flight and expulsion of employees are phenomena of conflicts and environment-induced crises that directly affect companies in unstable regions. Almost all branches of the economy thus have a clear interest in a stable and peaceful environment for their activities. Conversely, the business sector plays an important role in the interaction of economic growth, social development and a healthy environment, all of which can advance peace and sustainable development. 

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Environmental issues have a significant security dimension. Access to, and overuse of, natural resources often play a key role in civil wars or other forms of internal domestic conflict. This is compounded by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate change is now widely recognised as a non-traditional, risk-multiplying threat that will have increasing security impacts. Key risks with possible implications for human and national security include water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement. More preventive diplomacy and advocacy is needed to address the strategic implications of climate and environmental change.

Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable Transformation allows societies to profit from a growing, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy – especially in emerging and developing countries. This requires a higher up-front investment, but the benefits of a sustainable transformation in the medium and long term are significant. For instance, energy cost savings and reducing the impact of price volatility offer major incentives for deploying renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. Such benefits exist in all key sectors of the economy.

Technology & Innovation

Innovations and technologies are already readily available and affordable but their global diffusion and uptake remains a challenge. Innovation and technology are crucial to achieving ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. However, research and development often do not receive appropriate public support. Developing countries can leapfrog high-carbon industrialisation phases by adopting, deploying and improving existing innovations and technologies. For this, it is essential to minimise financial, administrative and political barriers.


The availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the preservation of human health and sound ecosystems. The use of water resources is also vital, however, for economic development: whether for agriculture, industrial production or for electricity generation. The world's freshwater resources are distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and seasons. In addition, water shortage is becoming more prevalent in several regions due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation and increasing environmental pollution. Thus, water resources can hold potential for conflicts between parties who have different interests and needs.

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The environment in Asia is already under tremendous pressure as a result of the unsustainable use of land, forests, water and even air in many regions. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. Rising sea levels will likely endanger densely populated areas, changes in the monsoon patterns can strongly impact agriculture, melting glaciers will increase long-term water scarcity, and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and cyclones can pose further hazards.

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Central America & Caribbean

Natural disasters and water scarcity are key challenges for most of Central America and the Caribbean. These challenges will become even more pronounced as the climate changes. Weak resource and disaster risk management and land disputes pose additional security challenges for large parts of the region. Several countries of Central America and the Caribbean have limited adaptive capacities as they face political instability caused by high social inequality, crime, corruption, and intra-state conflicts.

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As one of the most developed and most densely populated regions in the world, Europe makes heavy use of its resources, resulting in difficult trade-offs and negative consequences for the environment and ecosystems. Land is used for settlements, agriculture and dense infrastructure, creating problems of soil degradation. Water resources are stressed due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Despite nature protection policies, Europe continues to lose biodiversity at an alarming pace. Some of these trends are exacerbated by climate change, which is expected, for instance, to lead to shifts in water availability.

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Global Issues

Resource scarcities, environmental pollution and climate change are not limited by national borders, but often have a transboundary or even global impact. These issues interact with political stability, governance structures and economic performance, and can trigger or worsen disputes and violent conflicts. Exacerbating some of these trends, climate change is likely to lead to the degradation of freshwater resources, declines in food production, increases in storm and flood disasters and environmentally induced migration. All these developments pose potential for conflict.

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Middle East & North Africa

The geopolitical position of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its fossil fuel resources, high population growth and the political changes spurred by the Arab Spring all make the region one of the most dynamic in the world. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most arid and environmentally stressed. Dwindling water resources, limited arable and grazing land, high pollution from household and industrial waste, remnants of conflicts and increasing desertification are key environmental challenges.

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North America

Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.

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Oceania & Pacific

In Oceania, population growth and economic development trends put a strain on oceanic and island ecosystems. Freshwater scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, loss of land biodiversity, forests and trees, invasive species, soil degradation, increasing levels of settlement, poor management of solid and hazardous waste and disproportionate use of coastal areas are some of the problems. Climate change exacerbates most of these trends, while also raising questions about the future sovereignty of some island states.

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South America

South America has diverse and unique ecosystems and is very rich in biodiversity. Weak natural resource management, land disputes and extreme weather events bring about significant challenges for the region. While South America accounts for relatively few CO2 emissions, the changing climate will alter its ecosystems and greater climate variability will lead to more hurricanes, landslides, and droughts.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

In many African states, environmental security issues rank high on the political agenda. Throughout the continent, countries suffer from water scarcity, food insecurity and energy poverty. These chronic and worsening resource scarcities have severe livelihood implications and are exacerbated by political conflicts over access to and control over these resources. Climate change may seriously threaten political and economic stability in Africa. It may also put a severe strain on the capacities of states and societies to co-ordinate activities, to communicate and to organize.

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