The complex link between climate change and conflict – Volume 8, Issue 4 (Autumn 2019)

Why are climate change and conflict intrinsically linked? Is climate action a matter of national security? Why would Africa need a permanent seat on the UN Security Council? And how does gender equality tie into all of this? In the autumn edition of our Great Insights magazine, contributors from across Africa and Europe answer these questions – and more. 

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    The complex link between climate change and conflict – Editorial
    Vera Mazzara and Hanne Knaepen

    Climate action as a matter of national security
    Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission
    National interest is sometimes used as an argument against climate action. National economic interests are opposed to the interests of the planet. Such an approach is fundamentally flawed. Climate change is today a matter of national interest and national security. It is already destabilising entire countries and regions, with serious security consequences for all of us, at all corners of the world.

    Keep climate change from fuelling conflict
    Alexandra Pichler Fong and Helena de Jong, Policy Planning Unit, Policy and Mediation Division, Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, UN, New York
    As climate change advances, it is increasingly disrupting peace and security. This could mean a heightened risk of violent conflict for many already fragile countries with high exposure to climate hazards and limited coping capacity. New approaches are needed to work on the interlinkages between climate change, conflict prevention and sustaining peace.

    Intergovernmental organisations and climate risks
    Lisa Maria Dellmuth, Department of Economic History and International Relations, Stockholm University
    Intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), such as the United Nations, are increasingly integrating mitigation of climate risks into their mandates. To better understand how IGOs can address climate risks in ways that are just, legitimate and effective, we need to know more about the multilevel nature and (il-)legitimacy of global climate policies.

    Securitisation without representation: Yet another reason why Africa needs a permanent seat on the UN Security Council
    Lidet Tadesse Shiferaw, Policy Officer, Security and Resilience programme, ECDPM
    Climate change is increasingly acknowledged as a global security issue, and the UN Security Council’s mandate over it is growing. Yet, Africa still lacks equal standing with other regions and the permanent members of the Security Council. Without permanent representation of Africa on the Security Council, the continent is rendered a subject, not an agent, of global climate governance.

    Climate change, conflict and crisis in Lake Chad
    Janani Vivekananda, Senior Advisor, Adelphi
    Lake Chad is caught in a conflict trap. Climate change and conflict dynamics create a feedback loop.  The impacts of climate change seed additional pressure for conflict, while conflict undermines communities’ capacity to cope with climate risks. If the region is to break free from the conflict trap, climate risks have to be tackled as part of peacebuilding efforts. Lake Chad can once again become an engine for sustainable livelihoods and stability.

    The when and how of climate conflict: The case of Mali
    Basak Kalkavan, Tutor for the BSc. Security Studies programme at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University
    Climate change itself is not a direct cause of violent conflict. Yet, extreme changes in climate increase the risk of conflict by exacerbating people’s existing political, economic and social vulnerabilities.

    Climate change, conflict and displacement: Sides of the same coin
    Joyce Chen, Associate Professor, Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University
    Climate change is increasing the incidence of extreme weather events with the potential to destroy millions of dollars of personal property and public infrastructure. As households and businesses adapt to this new normal, the international community must see migration and security not as separate outcomes but as diametrical extremes of the simple need for adaptation.

    Human mobility and climate change: Migration and displacement in a warming world
    Caroline Zickgraf, Deputy Director of the Hugo Observatory: Environment, Migration, Politics at the University of Liège, Belgium
    Migration and climate change have each in their own right become defining global political issues. The links between human mobility and climate change require comprehensive policy approaches that minimise population displacement while facilitating migration as an adaptive force.

    A cross-cutting agenda: Gender, climate change and conflict
    Mayesha Alam, PhD at Yale University
    Gender equality is crucial to achieve climate justice, to resolve conflict and to maintain peace. Many of the risks and vulnerabilities in the conflict–climate nexus have a clear gender component. Addressing them calls for gender mainstreaming and gender balancing, while highlighting the need for local solutions and capitalising on global opportunities for advancing resilience.

    Water scarcity and conflict: Not such a straightforward link
    Susanne Schmeier et al, IHE Delft (Former UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education)
    Water insecurity is increasing worldwide. This raises the chance of competition, conflict and instability in communities, countries and regions everywhere. In response to the challenges, the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) Partnership designs innovative tools and services to identify emerging water-related security risks. The aim is to foster dialogue and early targeted action to prevent or mitigate crises.

    Elements of change: Climate and conflict in Africa
    Lily Welborn, Researcher, African Futures and Innovation programme, Institute for Security Studies
    Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects all life on earth. For the first time ever, the entire planet is undergoing a singular climatic transformation. Globally, land has already warmed 1.5°C and, owing to past greenhouse gas emissions and inertia in the climate system, the earth and its atmosphere will continue to warm until around mid-century, even if all emissions stopped today. Unprecedented heatwaves, food shortages and extreme storms will likely hit us before 2030 and intensify with further warming.

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