Several climate security studies have assessed the risks of climate change to security and examined potential foreign policy responses, but the connection between climate change and foreign policy remains underexplored. The new Climate Diplomacy Report of the German Foreign Office takes up the challenge.
There are probably hundreds of climate security studies out there to assess the risks that climate change poses to security and potential foreign policy responses for addressing them. There are not too many government strategy papers out there, defining what linking climate change and foreign policy actually means. One of the most in-depth approaches to date was the European Commission’ work back in 2008 and 2011 to examine the relevance of climate change for security and to outline how climate diplomacy could be further strengthened.
However, in December 2019, the German Federal Foreign Office produced a “Climate Diplomacy Report” outlining different elements that can and should characterise climate-related foreign policy. In light of the international climate negotiations having stalling once more at COP26 in Madrid, it is worth reading the introductory text that highlights why diplomats should pay more attention to the climate crisis. It states that foreign policy needs: “[..] to support other countries and international organisations in dealing with the impact of climate change and in the transformation towards a climate-neutral economy, thus injecting impetus into the entire spectrum of our bilateral and multilateral relations.”
This framing of the issue not only highlights the goals of the Paris Agreement; it pushes supporting other countries’ transformations towards carbon neutrality to the forefront of activities to promote a preventive climate diplomacy. This is the first of six areas described in the report – the others being more conventional topics related to climate and security, such as stabilisation, post-conflict peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance, along with the need to deal with the geopolitical shifts that will emerge due to both climate change and climate policy.
Reading through the report, three main observations come to mind:
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous parallels have been drawn between this health crisis and the climate crisis. Science plays an important role in advising decision makers on how to ensure sustainable crisis management and a precautionary approach to avoid harmful repercussions, particularly where we do not yet know all the consequences of our actions. [...]
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Solutions to the current COVID-19 crisis need to be aligned to those of the climate crisis for a global transformation towards more sustainability, resilience, equity, and justice. Climate diplomacy has the tools to achieve these objectives simultaneously.