Monday, 18 January 2021

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Time for climate-security action in an exploding world

Federica Mogherini at the Climate, Peace and Security, Time for Action event | ©European Union,  2018

On 22 June Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (EU), organised a high-level event in Brussels - Climate, Peace and Security: the Time for Action. This unprecedented meeting gathered ministers, parliamentarians, leading international figures, scientific experts, senior UN officials, think tanks and civil society to discuss the impact of climate change as a threat to our international security.

In her opening remarks, Federica Mogherini, highlighted how climate change has increasingly become a matter of national security and national interest over time as “the World Economic Forum tells us that four of the top five global risks are connected to climate change. The only comparable risk comes from weapons of mass destruction.  So, let us keep this in mind: when we invest in the fight against climate change, we invest in our own security. The good news is: this is not irreversible. Climate change is man-made, and solutions are also man-made.”

However, the growing and ongoing threat was further reinforced by experts present who explained that ice in the Antarctic is melting three times faster than five years ago with global sea levels expected to rise by one to two metres in the future. “We live in a world that is exploding. The problem is growing so fast that we are falling further behind. Thirty-three countries could face extreme high-water stress in 2040 and 143 million international climate migrants are to be expected between 2030-2040,” according to Dr Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute.

Margot Wallström and participants at the Climate Peace and Security Time for Action event

Several senior UN officials also shared their concerns and called for more urgency from all. Ovais Sarmad, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), stressed that “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 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

Erik Solheim the Head of UN Environment, underlined that “the world is changing much faster than we realise” and that addressing climate change is an indispensable part of solving conflict.

For Kirsi Madi, the Director of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the impact of disasters can no longer by denied and “addressing disaster risk reduction must mean mitigation, adaptation, access to early warning and increasing local capacities.”

Given the compelling and growing evidence from many sources, the connection between climate change and security means there must now be a shared responsibility to integrate security and development policies into a climate-security nexus.

At the end of the meeting, many called for more enhanced multilateral cooperation to deal with climate and security and not just another talking shop. Indeed, despite the Paris Agreement and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, early reporting and coordination systems from the field, adaptation and mitigation methods and integrated finance mechanisms are needed now more than ever.

"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", said Ms Margot Wallstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden.

The high-level event ended with six points for further action:

To elevate the climate-security nexus to the highest political level in national, regional and multilateral fora;

To deploy maximum political and diplomatic efforts to support the Paris Agreement implementation;

To mobilise and improve reporting and early warning systems - focusing on most exposed countries and regions;

To put the premium on prevention: building state and societal resilience;

To promote the role of women as agents of social, economic and political change;

To make action on the ground a source of sustainability, strength and peace.

The high-level event concluded an intense European Climate Diplomacy Week, including meetings with senior UN officials.

Click here for more information on the event.


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