25 November 2022

COP27: The role of security in climate adaptation policies

Climate finance took centre stage on the agenda of COP27, which took place in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt from 6-18 November 2022, but climate-security also received remarkable attention. A deep divide exists between rich, industrialised countries on the one hand and developing countries with historically much lower emissions on the other. The latter are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which has led to calls for ‘climate justice’ in the form of compensation for so-called loss and damage, to be paid by wealthy countries. These calls led to a new agreement on a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries, which the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called historic.

While climate finance is essential to help developing countries adapt to climate change, a recent report by UNEP shows that estimated adaptation costs are five to ten times greater than international adaptation finance that currently flows to developing countries. The COP27 Presidency launched the so-called Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda outlining 30 adaptation outcomes, including urgent global targets for 2030, to address this adaptation gap. Climate finance could be added through the new loss and damage fund and the so-called Adaptation Fund, to which an array of states, regional governments and development agencies pledged US$230 million during COP27. However, in the past, not all pledges materialised.

Next to climate finance, the climate-security nexus was present in this year’s COP. Taking into consideration this nexus is necessary for the successful implementation of many adaptation policies. This was echoed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a high-level discussion organized by the Munich Security Conference during COP27 when he claimed that peace is a precondition for the implementation of climate policies and the successful support of developing countries. According to Stoltenberg, climate change serves as a crisis multiplier by increasing competition over scarce resources and forcing millions of people to flee.

The climate-security nexus was also discussed in an official side-event hosted by the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) and Adelphi, revolving around the Climate for Peace Initiative. Next to this, the government of Tuvalu hosted a side event on a climate-secure future for the Pacific, together with the United Nations Development Project (UNDP). Adaptation and peace are mutually reinforcing, since not only does successful adaptation depend on peace, but it can also help to promote it by improving resource management.

The implementation of climate adaptation policies is especially crucial for the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Paris Agreement fails to acknowledge that many of the 25 countries in the world that are most vulnerable to climate change are also experiencing armed conflict and thus should be prioritized. Growing climate risks and armed conflict from Afghanistan to Somalia and Mali to Yemen have severe compounding effects, and without decisive financial and political support the suffering will only worsen.

The importance of environmental peacebuilding was further visible on COP 27 when the Presidency presented the Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace (CRSP), an initiative that was launched through the Cairo International Centre for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding (CCCPA). The initiative is based on four pillars linking climate to security and promoting environmental peacebuilding and is supported by the UNDP. While the implementation of this initiative remains to be seen, it shows that recognising the links between climate security, finance and adaptation is the way forward for successful climate action in the world’s most vulnerable countries and beyond.

An analysis by the Crisis Group shows that climate financing to countries affected by both climate change and conflict has been especially limited. Political violence and instability complicate development assistance, and organisations funding climate action have been reluctant to fund projects in situations of armed conflict. Conflict-affected states tend to suffer from poor governance, preventing them from accessing climate financing, for instance, because access to donor funding is blocked or they lack the capacity to become accredited. Furthermore, when climate finance is provided as a non-concessional loan that needs to be repaid at a market-based rate, this can have the perverse effect of adding to an already heavy debt burden.

Crisis Group shows that that the challenge of climate change and conflict is particularly acute in the Horn of Africa. In South Sudan, floods have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, leading to clashes between those displaced and the local populations of the areas they fled to. In Kenya, four consecutive seasons of failed rains have inflamed tensions among herder communities and between herders and landowners, leading to deadly clashes. Severe droughts have displaced 1.1 million people in Somalia and put more than 300,000 at risk of famine, a catastrophe compounded by seasonal floods and the Islamist insurgency Al-Shabaab’s control of large portions of the country.

In all these cases, adaptation measures urgently need to be implemented to mitigate the effects of climate change. Firstly, donor countries need to fulfil their annual commitments and bridge the divide between countries that are affected by conflict and those that are not. Financing for the poorest states should come in the form of grants instead of loans, not just because these states are not responsible for the climate catastrophe, but also because many of these states already carry heavy debts. Furthermore, climate finance mechanisms need to include strategies for assessing and managing conflict risk. According to Crisis Group, donors should either treat climate fragility and insecurity together or risk treating neither effectively.

Finally, the COP also paid attention to the consequences of insecurity causing climate change. In a side event organised by Ukraine, the Initiative on GHG Accounting of War presented an interim assessment of the climate impacts of the war in Ukraine. The assessment concludes that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the first seven months of the full-scale war total at least 100 million CO2, equivalent to the total GHG emissions over the same period in the Netherlands. The post-war reconstruction of civilian infrastructure accounts for half of the GHG emissions, followed by fires. As a number of impacts of this war have not yet been taken into consideration, these figures are likely to underestimate the true level of emissions. More information on the climate damage caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine can be found here on the website of the Planetary Security Initiative.

Photo credit: Ministry of Environment - Rwanda/Flickr