What does climate diplomacy look like in practice? What is its added value? And what are the challenges it is best suited to address? To find answers to these questions, the German Federal Foreign Office, supported by adelphi, invited representatives from international organisations such as the EU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations (UN) as well as over 30 countries for a two-day conference called “Climate Diplomacy in Perspective – From Early Warning to Early Action” on 10-11 October.

In working groups on water diplomacy, food security and coastal stability, common themes and questions quickly emerged: The value and danger of securitising the climate change discourse was a prominent issue. On the one hand, the securitization of issues such as transnational water sharing can raise threat perception to a level that makes it very hard to tackle and may even foster conflict. On the other hand, participants noted that framing climate change as a security challenge might help to finally create the political leverage needed for far-reaching action.

Another common theme was the complexity and linkage of challenges. Although covering different aspects, in each working group challenges quickly coalesced into complex systems with multiple feedback loops such as the water-food-energy-nexus. The same point was underlined in discussions around complex emergencies and crises, such as the 2010 floods in Pakistan.

However, the discussion did not stop at an analysis of challenges. The working groups developed many suggestions of what climate diplomacy could and should look like. One shared recommendation was that the complexity of and links between issues require sectoral policies and institutions to reach beyond their traditional, thematic and even geographic focus. In regard to cross border water cooperation for example, this means that regional political institutions are often better suited than water institutions because of their broader mandate and focus. Where classic diplomacy and regional cooperation do not work, for example because national governments are blocking these efforts, participants proposed that informal diplomacy, track II initiatives and cooperation on lower administrative levels such as municipalities can provide alternatives. (Lukas Ruettinger)

The conference website is available at http://climatediplomacy.org/home/dok/43544.php

For further information about the initiative of the German Federal Foreign Office on climate change and security, please see here.

Published in: ECC-Newsletter, 5/2011

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