The discussion on climate change as a threat to peace and security has gained some momentum after a UN Security Council meeting in July 2011. The most visible outcome of this meeting was a presidential statement asking for a strengthening of crisis and conflict prevention based on contextual information on possible security implications of climate change. The meeting encouraged diplomats around the world to further engage into discussions on how to strengthen climate diplomacy to avoid climate change destabilization of livelihoods around the world. As a result, diplomats joined a conference caravan aimed at peace and security that most recently stopped for two meetings in New York and Seoul.
In February, the Security Council again was the focus of the climate diplomats. Instead of convening a regular meeting, Pakistan and the United Kingdom had, however, invited for an Arria-Formula meeting – an informal, confidential gathering as a chance to exchange views among the Security Council members. This flexible procedural framework provides the possibility, for example, to invite experts to share their respective view on a specific topic. This practice was initiated back in 1992 when Ambassador Diego Arria of Venezuela used it to welcome a Bosnian priest in such an informal setting during the crisis in former Yugoslavia. At the Arria Meeting that took place on February 15th, the “priest” was climate scientist John Schellnhuber from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. His framing of future climate change risks encouraged German Ambassador Berger to highlight once again the required broadness of the climate diplomacy approach - referring also to the concept of sustainable development as discussed under the headline of a green economy: “[…] we cannot and must not continue to fuel our economies with fossil resources. This is why it is time now to move towards a green economy and truly sustainable development, in order to create the future we want – and to avoid a future we should all fear.”
The importance of greening the economy was also one of the topics discussed at the International Conference on “Climate Security in the Asia-Pacific Region” that was held in Seoul on March 21st and 22nd. Policy makers and experts discussed the need for more regional cooperation based on a whole-of-society approach. In fact, regional perspectives on the prospects of a joint green growth approach may help to address some of the concerns raised by countries such as India or China during the Arria-Formula meeting in New York and on other occasions. Dhanasree Jayaram, Associate Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi, elaborates on these concerns and outlines six reasons why the UN Security Council should not discuss climate change. She argues, among others, that the way climate security is discussed can be perceived as another attempt of the industrialised countries to brand climate change a 'developing country syndrome’. One may not agree with all reasons outlined by Dhanasree but she clearly emphasises one of the main challenges of the caravan of conferences described above: to find ways to frame climate diplomacy as a chance to offer strong solutions for sustainable peace and livelihood security. To get more guidance in this regard, a whole-of-society approach can serve as an entry point for a more sophisticated understanding of regionally specified narratives of climate diplomacy responses.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.
In January 2020, the German Federal Foreign Office launched Green Central Asia, a regional initiative on climate and security in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The aim of the initiative is to support a dialogue in the region on climate change and associated risks in order to foster regional integration between the six countries involved.
Climate change will shift key coordinates of foreign policy in the coming years and decades. Even now, climate policy is more than just environment policy; it has long since arrived at the centre of foreign policy. The German Foreign Office recently released a report on climate diplomacy recognizing the biggest challenges to security posed by climate change and highlighting fields of action for strengthening international climate diplomacy.
A high-level ministerial conference in Berlin is looking at the impact of climate change on regional security in Central Asia. The aim is to foster stronger regional cooperation, improve the exchange of information and form connections with academia and civil society.