28 April 2023

Comparing Responses to Climate-related Security Risks Among the EU, NATO and the OSCE

This SIPRI Policy Report compares responses to climate-related security risks by the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)—the three main intergovernmental regional organizations involved in addressing security in Europe and beyond. All three have formulated ambitious policies in the area of climate security in recent years. With a view to maximizing the potential of these organizations to respond to climate-related security risks, as well as identifying complementary approaches and synergies, this policy report seeks to systematically explore the similarities and differences between the three. The analysis is structured around five building blocks: (a) context; (b) discursive framing; (c) institutional design; (d) policy action; and (e) ambition.

First, context identifies how an organization’s approach to addressing climaterelated security risks aligns with its organizational logic on international security. The EU, NATO and the OSCE have each formulated approaches to addressing climaterelated security risks that are closely aligned with their respective organizational logic on international security.

Second, discursive framing explores how climate security is understood in an organization’s official discourse and the extent to which it has been mainstreamed. Climate change is increasingly being framed in terms of security by all three organizations, but while the EU has adopted an integrated approach to climate security, this more holistic understanding has yet to be fully mainstreamed in all the relevant policy domains by NATO and the OSCE.

Third, institutional design reveals where climate-related security risks are being addressed in an organization and how this is being coordinated. Each of the three organizations has multiple institutional as well as dedicated bodies addressing climate-related security risks, but there is potential for enhanced coordination across the board.

Fourth, policy action unpacks how an organization is translating the climate security discourse into practice and the implementation so far. Each organization has its own thematic approach and priorities in addressing climate-related security risks but there is insufficient implementation and challenges remain. Setting out concrete goals and responsibilities represents an important step in enhancing policy action.

Fifth, ambition captures an organization’s concrete goals and assesses how realistic these are. Despite the high ambitions set by the three organizations to address climaterelated security risks, not all are realistic and require further concretization. Achieving their various ambitions will depend on how the different building blocks interact. These building blocks do not operate in isolation but interact and strengthen each other’s development, enabling change in addressing climate-related security risks.

The discussion in this report shows that while the EU, NATO and the OSCE have come a long way in raising the interlinkages between climate, peace and security on their agendas, it is not enough just to strengthen the discourse. Despite efforts to move beyond discursive framing through institutional design towards policy action, more is required to achieve the organizations’ ambitions in this domain. In addition, although all three include cooperation as part of their thematic approach to responding to climate security, thus far the focus has remained on discourse rather than action. Enhanced cooperation is needed to maximize the organizations’ complementarities and synergies in responding to climate-related security risks.

The policy report concludes by suggesting three ways forward for policymakers: (a) enhance cooperation between relevant European regional organizations; (b) increase leadership from member states, including through dedicated bodies; and (c) strengthen financial instruments aimed at supporting responses to climate-related security risks. Although these entry points are broad and may seem obvious to some, they are essential to ensuring progress on the climate security agenda. Moreover, they are feasible in the short to medium term and have the potential to not only reduce security risks stemming from climate change but also proactively contribute to peace


This report has originally been published by SIPRI and can be found using the link here.

By Anniek Barnhoorn

Photo credit: Flickr/NATO Photostream