The EU and its Member States have been practical pioneers of climate diplomacy for many years, but what has been learned up until now? Which initiatives and approaches are worth being replicated?
The EU and its Member States have been practical pioneers of climate diplomacy for many years. The emergence and evolution of climate diplomacy as a new strand of foreign policy illustrates the change diplomatic practices undergo in terms of topics, forums, instruments and actors involved. In its short history, a plethora of hands-on experiences with innovative approaches have been adopted.
A side event at COP23 on 6 November 2017 aimed at showcasing successful examples of EU climate diplomacy and learning from EU initiatives around the world. It was organized by adelphi in cooperation with the European External Action Service and the German Federal Foreign Office and served as an opportunity to engage with European and global civil society.
During the side event, Lena Ruthner from the consultancy ICF International shared key results from a study on the effectiveness of the EU’s climate diplomacy in the past, and gave two strategic recommendations. Firstly, the EU and its member states should align their policies with the ambitious targets of the Paris Agreement, and secondly, Europe should apply the ‘Team EU’-approach to its climate diplomacy, whereby both the Commission and EU Member states act collectively, in order to support greater alignment in the context of all external climate action. If European climate diplomacy in the future wants to motivate other countries as well as non-state actors, Lena Ruther concluded, it should leverage the value of its assets and networks and use them strategically.
Engaging non-state actors will indeed be key for achieving the ambitious <2° global warming target set out in the Paris Agreement, as they contribute to a better understanding of climate politics in different regions and help to spread innovation, to implement specific measures or to ensure that social and equity dimensions are incorporated.
Caroline Lambert, Climate and Environment Counsellor at EU Delegation to Australia, summarised the ‘ecosystem approach’ which was used by her delegation for a series of climate security events during European Climate Diplomacy Week in June 2017. This approach is based around the conviction that, rather than engaging in top-level dialogue between ambassadors, climate diplomacy can have a more lasting, sustainable impact if it facilitates exchange among the entire ‘ecosystem’ of climate stakeholders between countries – be it business, civil society and academia, regulators and policy-makers, or journalists. The delegation supported exchange by various innovative formats, including film-screenings, an exhibition and role-plays that allowed visitors to learn in a hands-on and experiential way.
In summer 2016, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini revealed the long-awaited Global Strategy “Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe”. It sets out the EU's “core interests and principles for engaging in the world” and aims very much at providing a holistic (“global”) approach. The strategy seeks to integrate EU climate diplomacy into the EU’s overall foreign and security policy thinking and recognizes the strategic importance of climate change as a root cause of conflict, calling it a “threat multiplier that catalyses water and food scarcity, pandemics and displacement”. It calls for pre-emptive peacebuilding and diplomacy, and for enhancing energy and environmental resilience. However, as Pascal Delisle from the European External Action Service pointed out, it remains a major challenge to integrate climate diplomacy into the entire foreign policy portfolio.
An area where progress has been made in this regard is the climate-security nexus – one of the three strands of EU climate diplomacy. Neil Wood from the European Union Military Staff (EUMS) showcased how overarching strategies have already been broken down and put into practice. In order to increase the number of military personnel at senior and middle-management level who are “climate change literate” and who can engage in dialogue, both within government and with the general public, concrete actions are pursued:
These are but small steps in the paramount effort to connect innovative climate diplomacy initiatives and practitioners and facilitate improving, replicating, and scaling up of such new formats and approaches.
At the conclusion of the 50th Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific leaders issued a Forum Communiqué and the ‘Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now’ – the strongest collective statement the Forum has issued on climate change. Pacific leaders highlight the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, the SAMOA Pathway Review, and 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the UNFCCC as “global turning points to ensure meaningful, measurable and effective climate change action”.
If ratified, the Mercosur-EU trade deal may reinforce the parties’ commitment to climate action. Yet, its potential relevance is weakened by a language that often stops short of concrete commitments, as well as by political resistance.
Iraq is on the verge of an environmental breakdown, and climate change is not helping. The country's fragile environment and the increasing scarcity of natural resources — particularly water — are a result of poor environmental management, as well as several political and historical factors. However, as climate change impacts add to the existing pressures, the environmental collapse turns into a security issue.
The severity of desertification and its mutual relationship with climate change cannot be overstated. In light of the recent launch of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Robert McSweeney from Carbon Brief explains what desertification is, what role climate change plays, and what impact it has across the world.