08 May 2023

Climate Security Scenarios in the Balkans

The new summary report on ‘Climate Security Scenarios in the Balkans’ examines climate security futures for the Western Balkans region and identifies entry points for anticipatory action on climate resilience for NATO and the EU. The findings of the paper are based on an interactive scenario exercise held at the Berlin Climate and Security Conference 2022.

The scenarios exercise detailed in this report was hosted by the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) Expert Group and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Participants were drawn from attendees at the Berlin Climate Security Conference hosted by adelphi and the German Federal Foreign Office in October 2022. The exercise sought to identify action points on climate security for NATO and EU leaders, and was based on a report released by the IMCCS Expert Group in July 2022 as part of the World Climate and Security Report 2022.

The Balkans region—which consists of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia—will experience significant climate change-related hazards, including droughts, heatwaves, tropical storms, and wildfires. Given the region’s reliance on hydropower, and its position as a highly trafficked land route for migration to the European Union, these climate impacts could result in cascading security risks.

This paper examines climate security futures for the Balkans region developed during an interactive scenarios exercise,2 predicated on a scene set in 2027 where multiple climate extremes have adversely impacted the Balkans including an extended heatwave, extreme wildfires in multiple countries, and historic floods. International institutions are stretched thin by climate catastrophes across their domains, and migration from the Middle East and North Africa region through the Balkans has increased dramatically.

With this scene setter in mind, participants identified two of the most important, or diagnostic, and uncertain drivers of change in the region—primary external investment sources (e.g. European Union [EU]/NATO or China) and regional cohesion. Participants then created four future scenarios which explored how these drivers would combine with climate impacts to create security risks. Analysis of these scenarios yielded five key recommendations for NATO countries and EU leaders:

• Develop equitable climate resilience strategies to minimize regional divides

• Leverage climate security engagement for cooperation

• Adapt current interventions for climate engagement

• Engage with stakeholders at different levels of governance

• Invest in building civilian trust

The most important finding from the exercise is that the riskiest climate security scenario for the Balkans is one with no external engagement. In other words, some investment, regardless of the source, is better than none.


This report has originally been published by Weathering Risk, and can be found here

Authored by Erin Sikorsky and Brigitte Hugh. 

Photo credit: Flickr/csw27