15 July 2018

Europe’s Responsibility to Prepare: Managing Climate Security Risks in a Changing World

In advance of a critical meeting of European Union (EU) security leaders on June 22, which marks the 10th anniversary of the EU’s landmark report on climate change and security, two leading think tanks have released a report outlining a new framework for the European Union to transform its response to the security risks of climate change.

In “Europe’s Responsibility to Prepare: Managing Climate Security Risks in a Changing World”, the Center for Climate and Security (based in Washington, DC) and the Clingendael Institute (based in The Hague) argue that the security threats of climate change should be more routinely integrated into EU institutions at a senior level and be elevated alongside other ‘traditional’ security issues like terrorism and nuclear threats. As the EU’s conflict prevention mechanisms are making progress in better-addressing climate risks, the report gives detailed recommendations on what a response scaled to the threat of climate change across EU bodies could look like.

An impression on the proactive diplomatic interventions in crisis regions are presented in this video.

Click here for the full report.

Key points of the report include:

  • The European political and security community has a ‘Responsibility to Prepare’ for climate-related threats.
  • The EU must be more proactive in making diplomatic and development interventions in crisis regions affected by climate change and security risks.
  • The EU’s current conflict early warning and rapid response systems risk becoming inadequate unless they plan better for the impacts of climate change.

The EU faces unprecedented risks, including those from climate change, but also has unprecedented foresight capabilities. Together these create a Responsibility to Prepare, as outlined in the report from the Center for Climate and Security and the Clingendael Institute, co-publishers of the report. The ‘Responsibility to Prepare’ framework was debuted at the UN Security Council in December 2017 by the Center for Climate and Security, and the new report details concrete recommendations for adapting EU policy and financial instruments to manage risks in a climate-affected security environment.

“Europe is already dealing with security issues and political challenges made worse by climate change, for example around migration, as well as threats from climate- and conflict-affected regions like Syria. We know more security problems are on the way as climate change intensifies year by year. Fortunately, we are able to foresee these threats more clearly than ever before, which gives the EU an opportunity – and a responsibility – to prepare for the security risks of climate change, and preserve stability both at home and abroad.” – Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs, The Center for Climate and Security

The 22 June event brings together ministers, leading international figures, parliamentarians, think tanks and civil society, including senior government officials from Sweden, Kenya, Japan and China, as well as the EU and UN. The meeting will explore the agenda for action on addressing climate security risks, at both a policy and operational level.

 “The EU takes a leading role in reducing emissions, but this is unlikely to prevent climate impacts becoming more severe and multiplying security and migration pressures in the EU's close vicinity. Therefore the EU now needs to incorporate in a meaningful way the climate-nexus in its joined up approach that combines foreign policy instruments in the field of defense, diplomacy and development.” –Louise van Schaik, Head of Sustainability Research, the Clingendael Institute

The report supports the Planetary Security Initiative’s Hague Declaration on Planetary Security, which seeks to accelerate practical and pragmatic responses to the security threats of climate and environmental change. The Planetary Security Initiative was founded in 2015 and works to coalesce the international climate security community of practice. Its next conference will take place 19-20 February, 2019, just after the Munich Security Conference.

More Resources:

EU high-level event: EU will host high-level event ‘Climate, Peace, and Security: The Time for Action’

The Center for Climate and Security’s “Responsibility to Prepare” Page.

Policy brief: What can the EU do? Climate-related security risks in Iraq & Mali. 

Briefer: A Responsibility To Prepare: Governing in an Age of Unprecedented Risk and Unprecedented Foresight

Briefing to the UN Security Council: “A Responsibility to Prepare,” December 15, 2017, Caitlin Werrell, The Center for Climate and Security: VideoPrepared remarksMeeting summary.

Planetary Security Initiative: Hague Declaration on Planetary Security