22 February 2019

#Doable: fourth Planetary Security Conference marks shift to action

The Planetary Security Conference 2019 concluded on Wednesday 20 February with a collective resolve to implement and scale up actions to reduce security risks emanating from climate change.

Over 450 diplomats, military personnel, development professionals, local and regional leaders, scientists and private sector players came together to discuss progress so far and how immediate needs could be addressed, particularly those most pressing in the spotlight regions of the Conference:  Iraq, Lake Chad, Mali and the Caribbean.

Opening proceedings under the theme #Doable, Clingendael General Director Monika Sie Dhian Ho said, “We have reached a tipping point when it comes to public awareness of the consequences of climate change.” She was one of several speakers to note the significance of Angela Merkel’s decision to open last week’s Munich Security Conference with a reference to the new geochronological age: the Anthropocene, and commended the leading security conference which also for the first time saw a main session covering the climate-security nexus.

Words of Welcome by Clingendael Director General Monika Sie Shian Ho

Words of Welcome by Clingendael General Director Monika Sie Shian Ho

Her Excellency Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, echoed this context and its universal nature. “One thing that unites all flags on the political spectrum” she said, “is the negative impact of our activity on earth’s systems”. She celebrated the success of The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security in influencing the discourse on climate security at multiple levels, but noted that the job is not done, pointing to the central role of data, knowledge, technology and partnerships. “On behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands,” she concluded, “I commit that we will continue this journey with you.” (full livestreams)

Throughout 20 workshops, 9 special sessions and numerous closed breakout meetings, attendees from 57 countries discussed #Doable actions to reduce and reverse the substantial security risks posed by climate change and related resource pressures. Solutions as varied as improved modelling, information sharing, strengthened multidisciplinary institutions, de-compartmentalised financing and resource-aware defence procurement were presented, debated and shaped for further implementation.

The launch of a new military network on climate and security

A new International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) was announced at the conference. It will see a “standing” network of senior military leaders amplify existing efforts in the field and produce an annual World Climate and Security Report. Tom Middendorp, former Chief of Defence for the Netherlands, will chair the Council. The ‘green general’, as he said he came to be known following his interventions to declare climate change a threat to global security at the Planetary Security Conference of 2016, emphasised during the conference the crucial but complementary role that military leaders can play.

Watch and read Tom Middendorp in his interview with the independent

Geopolitics of the energy transition as new challenge

A new topic this edition was the geopolitics of the energy transition. Director General Adnan Amin of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicted to an increasingly “democratised and decentralised” energy future with both opportunities and challenges, as identified in a new report from the IRENA-convened Global Commission. The changing character of energy security was also highlighted in a keynote address during the Conference dinner delivered by NATO Assistant Secretary-General Antonio Missiroli. He noted  that “the growing energy needs of our militaries have become a challenge in their own right”, in addition to the challenges of regional tensions and new threats to infrastructure security. “Predicting rain doesn't count;” he concluded, arguing for the need to adapt: “building arks does.”

Action in spotlight regions and progress monitored

Local leaders from across the conference spotlight regions – Mali, Iraq, Lake Chad and Caribbean – shared advanced and tailored plans to target the diverse nature of climate-security threats in their different ecological and socioeconomic circumstances.

For the Caribbean region, a new Action Plan for Resilience that was developed at the Planetary Security Conference in Aruba of 13 December 2018 was discussed. A similar plan was developed over the course of two days for the Lake Chad region in a specific expert meeting  preceding the Planetary Security Conference. For Mali, three local representatives from the Mopti region presented a plan they developed with others from their region in a so-called "mastercircle" process over the past 6 months. The plan aims to reduce tensions by improving the management of scarce resources. Iraq and its water problems featured prominently during several sessions ahead and after the Conference. Azam Alwash, CEO of Nature Iraq pointed out that now is the crucial moment to set onto a constructive path over shared waters, which allows food security to return to the region.

Actions were also listed in the monitoring of progress in the 6 action areas of the Hague Declaration , which also feature the spotlight regions as well a migration, urbanisation and the ambition for an institutional home for climate security in the UN. Adelpi Managing Director Alexander Carius in his presentation explained that much has happened since December 2017, but much more action is needed and expected to come after this Conference.  Indeed, many of the actions discussed will be taken forward in the coming months and years through collaboration between the unique, multidisciplinary network that the Planetary Security Initiative has established.

The media as an integral actor to carry the work forward

The media as an integral actor to carry the work forward

The conference took place in a context of increased international attention to the nexus of climate and security, as was pointed out by the CEO of the European Climate Foundation, Laurence Tubiana. In January the UN Security Council held a full-day debate on the issue featuring speakers from over 80 member states, many of whom called for greater institutional capacity in the UNSC to mitigate and adapt to the security impacts of climate change. This followed environment-related risks dominating the World Economic Forum’s closing session and Global Risks Report 2019. Earlier this week, the EU Council welcomed further attention to climate security risks both in the UN Security Council and in its own conflict Early Warning System, and further events to build on the Planetary Security Initiative.

Outreach and reporting

Through a media partnership with Free Press Unlimited and the Stanley Foundation, 15 journalists – from countries where the effects of climate change are already being felt – attended and reported on the conference. In addition, an international cohort of 25 young students and professionals supported with outreach and conference assistance as part of the PSI Youth Fellowship 2019.

The conference was organised by the Planetary Security Initiative, an international consortium composed of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ (The Hague), Adelphi (Berlin), the Center for Climate and Security (Washington), The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SPIRI), on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the closing address, Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs Stef Blok spoke to the clear agenda that now exists in the new phase of the initiative, building towards the UN Climate Summit in September 2019 and beyond. “This forum,” he said, “is not just another knowledge platform. Not just a talking shop. You’ve made it a platform for political advocacy and, more importantly, action.”


for some photographic impressions of the conference click here

for the best of video click here