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Ahead of the fourth Planetary Security Conference on 19–20 February 2019 in The Hague, SIPRI authored the 2019 progress report ‘Climate Security – Making it #Doable.’ The report reviews progress made to address climate-related security risks in a time of growing geopolitical turmoil. The authors highlight three upcoming processes that will be key in shaping actions on climate security in 2019 and beyond.
During 2018 the increasing impact of climate change became visible with frequent droughts, floods, and extreme weather events. At the same time geopolitical tensions grew between old and new rivals that seem to undermine the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2016 Paris Agreement. The turmoil puts multilateralism in question.
Climate security within the UN
Nevertheless, as shown in the newly released report ‘Climate Security – Making it #Doable’, global and regional organizations have been able to achieve progress in addressing and mitigating climate-related security risks. Developments among regional organisations—including the African Union and the European Union—illustrates a growing awareness and action on climate security. In the UN system, progress has been demonstrated through three interconnected changes:
Keeping the momentum
With these promising developments a key question now is: how can the capacity to assess and respond to climate-related security risks in the international system continue to be enhanced?
The problem is that neither the ownership of the problem nor the solution is simple. The point of departure for the policy responses within the machinery—in a government or an inter-governmental organisation—is often unclear. This is because climate-related security risks pose multifaceted obstacles. They do not fit neatly into any particular department portfolio and are not solvable by one country alone.
In addition, there is a temporal and spatial tension. Temporally, between short-term problem solving of, for example, water shortages, and a long-term concern of development and building resilience. Spatially, between insecurity at the global level, the regional and local level. What happens to the one billion people living in low-lying coastal areas if sea levels rise as fast or faster than predicted? And what is the resulting implication for regional and even global security if national governments are unable to care for the well-being of those people as their abodes and livelihoods become less viable? There is also an issue of security at multiple local levels, as evidenced by localized violent conflicts in the Horn of Africa, but also from the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.
Different actors, different roles
Indeed, the best way to approach these problems is to recognize that different actors have unique roles to play in addressing climate-related security risks:
Making it #Doable
Hierarchy, cooperation and management look different across disparate organizations, but the points of responsibility and accountability is a must. Thus, maintaining the momentum both in the UN system and in regional organizations is pivotal. To make climate security actions ‘#Doable’ there are at least three upcoming processes that will be key in advancing this three-part agenda in 2019:
The global political system experiences rising geopolitical tensions. Meanwhile, science provides greater evidence of the current and likely future effects of climate change. There is a clearer and greater need for deeper cooperation on climate. Despite complexities and turmoil, an optimistic story can be told, and authentic progress is being made in adapting agendas and institutions to face the compounding challenges of climate change.
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