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Climate-Related Security Risks: Towards an Integrated Approach
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2016 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The most recent assessment report on climate change by the Intergovernmen- tal Panel on Climate Change has established beyond doubt that human activities have altered the earth’s climate system. Climate change is now widely recog- nized as one of the major forces shaping the future, and is an example of how human actions fundamentally a ect the basic physical processes of the world, with far-reaching and, at in the worst case scenario, disastrous consequences for human societies. Given these profound impacts, climate change is increasingly being treated as a security risk. Because of the diverse impacts a changing cli- mate is having and will continue to have across the globe, the security challenges are of a multifaceted character, involving human, community, state and interna- tional security. E ective policy responses in di erent policy areas will be pivotal to addressing these risks.

This report provides an overview of climate-related security risks and policy responses for addressing those risks. It does this by, first, analysing six thematic areas in which climate change can pose security risks, and then investigating how policy organizations integrate climate-related security risks into their policies and practical work. The overarching aim is to contribute practical alternatives on how to address and work with climate-related security risks. The study provides a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges presented by di erent integration strategies. We believe that this knowledge is required to allow policy- makers to accurately assess the value of current strategies and identify how poli- cies, strategic guidance, internal organization and procedures could be improved in order to respond better to climate-related security risks. The report is based on a review of academic articles, policy reports and policy documents, as well as interviews with practitioners and policymakers.

Investigating climate-related security risks

As mentioned above, the report has a two-fold purpose: to investigate climate-re- lated security risks and to outline the policy responses to those risks. Chapter 2 introduces our approach to investigating climate-related security risks and pre- sents six thematic areas involving such risks: water security; food security; sea level rise and coastal degradation; extreme weather events and weather-related disasters; climate-related migration; and violent conflict. Since a key question is when and under what circumstances climate-related security risks evolve, we also present a case study on the pathways from climate-related change to violent conflict in East Africa.

Chapter 2 comes to four major conclusions. First, the way in which climate-re- lated change increases security risks, including violent conflict, is dependent on the ability of societies to respond to stress. Governance structures and adaptive capacity are therefore critical mediating factors that a ect the security implica- tions of climate change. Second, the security risks posed by climate change interact with one another—water scarcity a ects food security, and food security could increase social unrest and violence. Greater attention is needed on how these interactions a ect a given thematic issue or geographical area. To respond e ec- tively to these risks, integrated approaches are required. Third, climate-related security risks are transmitted over time and space. Some risks are delayed, while others manifest themselves as rapid onset disasters. Moreover, consequences in one locality can have major implications in other distant locations. Policymaking needs to pay careful attention to this and better include the trans-boundary and long-term implications in its responses. Fourth, even though climate change is a global phenomenon, the impacts are characterized by far-reaching inequalities. Already vulnerable people and societies are often the most severely a ected. This raises fundamental moral issues about equity, justice, vulnerability and power relations. Greater e orts need to be taken in the security-oriented analysis to address how di erent groups and communities are a ected by climate change and how these risks can be reduced.

The responses of selected policy organizations and suggestions for improving strategies for integrating climate-related security risks

Chapter 3 examines how di erent policy organizations have responded to cli- mate-related security risks. First, it provides an overview of how a number of United Nations agencies and regional organizations have framed and incorpo- rated these risks into their work. Second, two in-depth studies are presented on the opportunities and challenges faced by two types of policy organization in their e orts to integrate climate-related security risks into their work. The organ- izations are: the European External Action Service and the development organi- zations in two European countries (Germany and the United Kingdom). None of these organizations has climate change as part of its core mandate so each faces a challenge to integrate climate change into its di erent issue areas.

The case studies show that while policies are often ambitious, they are formu- lated at a relatively abstract level and generally not implemented by the organ- izations in a systematic fashion. Based on these cases, the chapter makes four suggestions on how to improve strategies for integrating climate-related security risks. First, mainstreaming climate change might help to raise awareness of its possible security implications, but needs also to be complemented with integra- tion strategies. To ensure that climate risks are taken into account in analysis and programming, it is important that sta members have the necessary resources and capabilities, as well as e ective follow-up procedures. Second, there is a need to develop analytical tools that can improve the organizations’ work in this area. This involves for example methods to analysing climate risks and to develop cli- mate-sensitive tools for conflict prevention. Third, rather than adding a security dimension on to existing e orts on climate action, a ‘climatization’ of other pol- icy areas is needed, which means addressing how climate-related change a ects existing policies and could create new situations of insecurity. Fourth, it is essen- tial to improve coordination across policy areas, preferably around specific projects based on a common strategy. In order for such projects to be e ective, the objec- tives need to be clear, actors need to be provided with incentives to get involved, and su cient resources must be allocated to facilitate the cross-fertilization of expertise.

Improving policy responses to climate-related security risks

Chapter 4 uses these insights to outline a number of overarching reflections on how to improve policy responses to climate-related security risks. As is clearly shown throughout the report, a changing climate poses considerable security risks and could under some conditions even increase the risk of violent conflict. While policy organizations have started to address these challenges, there is a need to develop these e orts further and to work in a more integrated and context- sensitive manner. The chapter presents a number of overarching but at the same time practically oriented options for policymakers and practitioners:

  • Currently, di erent policy communities use di erent concepts to frame the security risks posed by climate change. Identifying common concepts can facilitate collaboration and mutual understanding and reinforce coordinated responses across policy communities.

  • To ensure e ective implementation it is important to develop organizational structures to strengthen coordination. The report identifies two complementary strategies for overcoming silos: the creation of interdepartmental working groups and drawing upon the assistance of external expert units for the coordination of the work. Incentives and resources are also critical to enable policymakers and administrators to work across silos both within and across governmental bodies and public authorities. Sustained and coherent leadership will be essential to achieve this.

  • Closer cooperation between policymakers, practitioners and researchers will be needed in order to provide systematic and profound knowledge on climate-related security risks. Policymaking, practical work and research need to be conducted in parallel, and they should inform each other. Increased collaboration and movement between these di erent domains can strengthen both policy and research. Experience also shows that expert units can undertake the function of translating research into policy.

    In sum, climate change poses multiple security risks for societies across the globe. These risks are transmitted over time and space and are manifested di erently depending on the context. Since these security risks span di erent research and policy areas, the challenges also involve overcoming disciplinary and organiza- tional barriers. To achieve this, strategic guidance based on long-term thinking is required. Leadership is therefore vital in order to develop the required preventive climate-related security risks measures that will contribute to human security, sustainable development and peace.

Suggestions for the Swedish policy context

The above conclusions are generic in character. Since this report has been com- missioned by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign A airs, we end with a list of spe- cific policy suggestions for the Swedish context:

  • Set up an interdepartmental working group to coordinate the Swedish Government’s work on climate-related security risks;

  • Establish an external expert unit that can support the government and relevant agencies by providing policy relevant analysis on climate-related security risks;

  • Arrange an annual conference on climate-related security risks across departments, agencies, research departments and institutes to create a forum for knowledge sharing and mutual learning on approaches, methods and experience of work already conducted;

  • Arrange training courses for sta and policy advisers across departments and agencies on the security risks posed by climate change across thematic areas and how they are interlinked;

  • Strengthen Swedish policymaking on climate-related security risks in the Swedish international delegations on regional and international organizations, as well as at the Swedish embassies;

  • Identify the relevant actors—organizations and countries—to collaborate with on international policymaking, and develop partnerships that can influence international and regional policymaking in line with Swedish goals; and

  • Take into account previous experiences of working with integrated approaches from related policy areas. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: SIPRI , 2016.
Keyword [en]
climate security, climate risks, climate change, security, human security, international security, violent conflict, global and regional organizations, integrated approaches
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-325531OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-325531DiVA: diva2:1115094
Projects
Climate Change and Security
Available from: 2017-06-26 Created: 2017-06-26 Last updated: 2017-06-27

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