24 June 2021

Will climate change become a mainstream issue for the security sector?

As more and more attention is devoted to climate security and the impact of climate change on the security sector, the community may find itself at a crossroads where climate change will become a mainstream security issue. While some argue against the militarisation of climate change, this brief by Maria-Gabriela Manea from Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) argues that security sector governance and reform (SSG/R) can provide a middle ground that enables the security sector to help mitigate the security effects of climate change.

 Maria-Gabriela Manea finds that the provision, management, and oversight of the security sector is already being strained by climate change. Most militaries are already responsible for dealing with natural disasters which will increase in quantity and severity over the coming years. Security actors will also be increasingly called on to support disaster response with long-term climate-related events like flooding, as well as the inevitable migration and security risks that will result. Overall, these phenomena will come to represent a huge additional burden on security and police forces which could cause unbearable strain without adjustment to face these risks.

It is important to note that the security sector is an intervening variable in the climate-security nexus. A poorly governed security sector can make conflict more likely, while a well-governed security sector can help to mitigate climate risks. This comes both in the sense of the security sector being a major emitter of greenhouse gasses as well as because poor operational oversight can lead to security operations exacerbating fragile situations. Therefore, it is essential that measures are taken to ensure good security sector governance in the face of a warming climate.

The brief concludes that Security Sector Governance and Reform (SSG/R) may be necessary to ensure the continuing effectiveness and accountability of the security as the climate-security nexus becomes more important. Formal and informal oversight, both parliamentary and from civil society, will be necessary for ensuring that freedoms and human rights are not curbed during climate-related states of emergency. Preparation must be done so that civilian institutions are able to uphold these democratic freedoms as well. To preserve effectiveness, reform must enable security sectors to be able to tackle climate security risks properly. For example, the UN intervention in Mali (MINUSMA) has a unit to tackle environmental crimes and undertakes work to reduce the risks from climate change.

This article was based on this policy brief

Photo Credit: United Nations Photo/ Flickr