17 February 2021
  • sahel
  • climate change
  • climate security

Climate change and security in North Africa

This research paper takes a regional perspective and looks at the cascading climate risks for three countries in North Africa, namely Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, also known as the Maghreb.This region presents a particular challenge with regards to transboundary or – cascading – climate risks, particularly given its high levels of water stress (and the importance of water in several key sectors and systems in the region) and the prediction that the region is bound to become hotter and drier in the future (IEP 2020). Cascading climate risks, or transboundary climate risks, are climate risks that cross national and sectoral borders. This means not only that climate change has impacts across boundaries, but also includes the notion of the transboundary or cascading effects of adaptation – positive or negative.

Positive or negative adaptation strategies, taken by one or more countries have repercussions for other countries (Hilden et al. 2020). There is a growing body of both qualitative and quantitative analysis on the impact of climate change and how this impacts development and security dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example the extent to which climate change has affected violent conflict between pastoralists and herders. But qualitative studies on cascading climate risks, in particular focusing on North Africa are scarcer (Ide et al. 2020). This policy brief has two central objectives. First, it aims to better understand the climate-related security risks for North Africa, with a focus on water, rural livelihoods and inequality, and the risk of incoherence between climate and other policies; Second, it aims to better understand the level of North Africa’s adaptive capacity, by taking a closer look at three climate-related development and security risks, notably:

  •  Decreasing natural resources: A first strand of climate-related security risks is related to the management and allocation of resources in a context of growing demand due to a population and economic growth. This includes the use and allocation of water resources (e.g. groundwater from aquifers) but also land rights in the case of dam construction, intended to be built to remedy the declining levels of groundwater. The decrease in water, and potential mismanagement of water resources risks leading to growing tensions and intercommunal conflict.
  • Rising inequalities: A second strand of climate-related security risks is the risk of rising inequalities in a context of existing socio-economic grievances and protests. High levels of rural-urban migration as a result of diminishing rural livelihoods, low spending in rural areas and growing disparities, will present additional challenges for the region. The position of women remains undervalued. Thus far, the link between climate changes and criminal or violent extremist activity is not apparent, but lack of livelihood opportunities presents a risk factor (in particular for men).
  • Policy incoherence: A third possible form of climate-reduced security risks are related to the unintended (negative) consequences of climate change policies in North Africa, as a result of incoherences and contradictions in these policies. This is notably the case with regards to the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which has implications for the use of resources such as water and land, and poses questions related to employment.

Read the full report HERE

This research paper is first published by the European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) in February 2021 and authored by Sophie Desmidt  

Photo credit: Carsten ten Brink/Flickr