France is increasingly looking into climate and security risks, partly because they manifest in regions of key French interest such as the Pacific, French Polynesia or New Caledonia. In the interview, the Co-Director of the Observatory on Climate and Defence at the French Ministry of Defence illustrates how France is waking up to the issue. The Observatory produces research on climate change and security for France’s armed forces.
"About the French strategy to address climate and security risks, I think it is fair to say that for quite a while France had been behind when it came to these issues; that countries like the UK, the US and Germany were far more advanced with already studies on this, looking at the operational dimension for the armed forces in the late 2000s.
I would say that France has kind of woken up to these issues. Starting from the mid-2010s, around 2014, 2015, and since then there has been a kind of willingness to address these issues amongst the French military within the Ministry of Defence with a series of reports that have been commissioned, and now this observatory on climate and defence which has been set up. And the role of the observatory is obviously to try and catalyse research on these issues, and to be the key hub and the key focal point for French research on these issues, serving directly the Ministry of Defence. Therefore I am also hoping that the observatory can help stimulate other research that would not be of direct interest for the Ministry of Defence, but that could address these issues at large – not just on an operational level, but also on a wider level.
I would say that we provide an assessment, country by country, of the risks related to climate change and security with a specific interest for the French armed forces obviously, and for the countries that are of interest for the ministry. But we also provide a periodic report, looking at recent developments on scientific research and also on policy developments on climate change and security. And we organise a number of events and coordinate a number of studies, the most recent being a study that has just been launched on climate and security in the Pacific, where there are – as you know – some French territories. "