24 June 2020
  • climate security
  • climate change
  • Conflict
  • Military

Webinar highlights “Climate Interventions & Peace in the Age of Covid-19”

On Friday, 19 June 2020 Planetary Security Initiative (PSI) hosted an interactive webinar “Climate Interventions & Peace in the Age of Covid-19’’. Tobias von Lossow, Project Manager of the PSI at the Clingendael Institute posed critical questions to four experts who discuss the climate-security nexus from a military, diplomacy and development perspective. Here we summarize the main points of the discussion.  

Recently, military organisations took an active role in adopting climate- security-related risks as major threats. This approach is often criticised since military originations are also seen as perpetrators of conflict in some regions. Both Dr. Louise van Schaik and General Tom Middendorp (Ret.) from the Clingendael Institute and the International Military Council on Climate & Security (IMCCS) acknowledge that military interventions are as necessary as diplomacy solutions

van Schaik believes that climate change is not an emerging enemy, rather a massive challenge for military organisations. Therefore, more budget is required to help militaries better respond to climate-security risks.

“Climate change has consequences for the military with regard to its tasks, mission preparations, early warning and risk assessment. And we should not forget that the military is a big contributor to the emissions that cause climate change. In the Clingendael study ‘Ready for Take-Off’ we looked at the military in 11 countries. We found oftentimes climate change not only acts as a threat multiplier in theatres of military operations, but also has direct implications for military capabilities”


Featuring climate- security for the first time on the main stage of the Munich Security Conference last year was a big step towards international stability. According to General Tom Middendorp (Ret.), climate change was discussed as one of the biggest security threats of our time, making the issue a wake-up call for the security community.  Middendorp shared four possible options for the Munich Security Conference, which could help moving beyond recognising the existential danger of climate change. First, military organisations should take a pro-active approach to the foresight and prevent climate security threats. Second, security institutions should think of ways to adapt to the geopolitical impact of climate change. Third, discussing the adaptation of polices towards climate-vulnerable and conflict-prone regions and exchange best practices. Fourth, climate-proofing military forces will enable them to act in extreme circumstances and, thus, protect vital infrastructure. 

From the diplomacy angle, Thomas Ritzer from the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) discussed the Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) goals to reduce the security risks related to climate change. As the issue is too complex to address from a single approach, a first comprehensive UN response to climate-related risks has been initiated. CSM aims to build on existing knowledge and bring different expertise together to address climate-related risks. According to Ritzer, COVID-19 added an additional layer to the problem and he indicates various parallels between the pandemic and climate change. 

“COVID- 19 and climate change do not affect all people equally, they really expose and compound underlying weakness and vulnerabilities. They also both demonstrate the importance of global public goods - including healthy environments - and broader societal systemic issues which can help us increase the resilience of states and communities.”

Finally, Selena Victor from Mercy Corps commented on the development perspectives and practices on the ground. In their recent study “Climate change and conflict: lessons from emerging practice” Mercy Corps mapped and analysed various examples of strategies addressing conflict-climate dynamics. The study revealed that the largest group of interventions are still addressing local conflict at the community level, which, again, stress the importance of constructing locally-based solutions. Some of our followers agreed upon the latter and commented on involving and working with communities’ form affected regions 

Watch the full webinar here.



Photo credit: AMISOM Public Information/ Flickr