COP21 President and UNFCCC Secretariat
COP21 President and UNFCCC Secretariat. Photo credits: UNclimatechange/Flickr.com

The potential security risks of climate change require ongoing attention at the highest political level. The key forum for addressing these risks is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which convenes the yearly UN climate negotiations. In addition, a number of opportunities exist at the global level to enter into a broader dialogue, including with further relevant stakeholders, for example from the foreign and security policy community. The discussion on how to tackle climate risks has repeatedly highlighted the role of diplomacy and resilience strengthening. The German Foreign Office contributes to this process by supporting the debate in different fora on how to address climate change related risks and how to use diplomacy to strengthen resilience at various levels.

For example, to anchor commitment to climate change at the highest level of the international political agenda and raise the level of ambition for global climate policy, German diplomats brought the security implications of climate change to the attention of the United Nations Security Council in 2011. In the aftermath, German climate diplomacy was involved in initiating a series of government-initiated international conferences on climate and security. The discussions held in Berlin (2011), London (2012) and Seoul (2013) were each attended by about one hundred foreign policy-makers and experts. The events explored regional risks and opportunities for enhancing security and development, and reached out to numerous partners within the foreign and security policy community.

Gemany and the United Kingdom together initiated the first discussion of climate diplomacy at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in July 2011. The Council agreed to address systemic risks from climate change, encourage low-carbon economic transformation and raise climate change in discussions with third countries at all levels. Since then, EU Foreign Ministers have discussed the foreign policy risks from climate change repeatedly, namely in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

German diplomacy also encouraged a focus on climate change and fragility among the G8 Foreign Ministers in 2013.This has opened multiple channels to ensure an ongoing discussion on how to deal with climate change impacts in conflict-prone contexts and how to join forces internationally to strengthen resilience to climate-fragility risks in vulnerable countries. Regional consultations during the preparation of the flagship report A New Climate for Peace in 2014 and 2015, as well as after finalisation of the report, enabled German climate diplomacy to establish the well-received notion that “resilience needs to become a compass for foreign policy.” A side-event on the last day of the ground-breaking Paris climate conference in December 2015 illustrated the importance of closely linking climate diplomacy efforts and resilience-strengthening initiatives at various levels. Yet the need to further explore options for preventive diplomacy did not disappear with the Paris Agreement. Only one month after the successful conference in Paris, climate diplomats came back to Paris to discuss next steps at the conference Climate Change and European Foreign Policy after COP21. This conference was organised by EUISS, IDDRI and adelphi with support from the German Foreign Office

In a similar vein, the Dutch foreign ministry initiated a yearly “Planetary Security Conference” in 2015 in The Hague to create a forum for the exchange of experiences and insights on climate-related risks and conflicts. This is flanked by academic institutes and think tanks, including adelphi. From 2016 to 2018, discussions will be accompanied by working group sessions focusing on regional risk complexes, but also on potential response activities to ensure water and food security or conflict-sensitive adaptation.