IMCCS Engages EU Security Community on Climate Security

This article is a cross-post from the Planetary Security Initiative on May 16, 2019.

This week climate-related security issues were prominently discussed in Brussels. Luxembourg Minister of Defense François Bausch addressed the topic in a meeting with his counterparts in the Foreign Affairs Council. This Council, which is composed of Ministers from EU Member States, brought together Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense in a so-called joined session format. They were joined by their counterparts from the G5 Sahel and its Secretary General. The EU reiterated its commitment to the region and its willingness to increase its engagement in the future. Defense Minister Bausch stressed that the deployment of soldiers alone could not provide a durable solution and that other means of crisis management are necessary and have come rather short in the past. Later in the afternoon the minister briefed the Council about the catastrophic consequences of climate change and its implications for security and defense policy. The Sahel is a region which is highly vulnerable and security impacts related to climate change are already visible, as is also outlined in various PSI activities on Mali, Lake Chad and other parts of the Sahel. The Minister from Luxembourg proposed placing climate-security on the official agenda of the Defence Ministers meeting in the EU Council to consolidate the European commitment to this topic.

On the sidelines of the Council meeting François Bausch had a working meeting with the Netherlands Minister of Defense Ank Bijleveld and the Director of the European Defense Agency Jorge Domecq. They discussed to join forces in analysing what a Europese defence policy strategy on the security dimension of climate change should entail. Climate security is not a new topic for the European Union. Earlier this year, EU Foreign and Defense Ministers underscored that climate change acts as a global threat multiplier and increasingly as a threat in its own right, reacting to the stark findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report. The challenge now is to translate this to action in the field of early warning and geopolitical analysis, capabilities to respond to weather-related disasters, situational risks assessments during the implementation of missions, and the resource and carbon footprint of military activities.

The next day General Tom Middendorp (Ret.), Chair of the newly established International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), gave presentations on the security dimension of climate change in the EU Military Committee and the EU Political & Security Committee, in addition to meetings with some of the most senior military representatives based in Brussels. He outlined how climate change, compared with resource stress and population growth leads inter alia to humanitarian disasters, (local) resource disputes and additional migration. This calls for more and other intelligence on conflict risks and its root causes, an increased need to protect key infrastructures, additional calls for border protection and disaster relief. At the same time military organisations can make a huge contribution to addressing climate change and natural resource stress by innovation of technology and materials used at home and at mission, which is attractive to them since it often reduces the high costs and risks of logistics connected to military activities. He invited experts and officials from the EU institutions and EU member states to join the new international network that aims to anticipate, analyze and address the security dimension of climate change, and how military organisations can prepare for and respond to it. He was accompanied by Louise van Schaik, Head of Unit at the Clingendael Institute, who published earlier on how the EU could prepare for climate-related security risks and which instruments the EU could consider for the cases of Iraq and Mali.  

On the sidelines of the council meeting François Bausch had working interviews with the Netherlands Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten and the Director of the European Defense Agency Jorge Domecq. The Minister again tackled the issue of climate change and the implications for security and defense policy. Climate security is not a new topic for the European Union. In light of the stark findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report EU Foreign and Defense Ministers underscored earlier this year, that climate change acts as a global threat multiplier and increasingly as a threat in its own right.

Middendorp Committee
Chairman of the IMCCS, General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence of the Netherlands (Ret), informs the EU Military Committee, and its Chairman, General Claudio Graziano, about climate change-related security issues, and invites experts and officials to join the IMCCS.

The afternoon before, during a meeting of the Brussels Dialogue on Climate Diplomacy at the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union, General Middendorp was joined by Shiloh Fetzek and Tobias von Lossow in a panel moderated by Alexander Verbeek, Policy Director at EDRC. Ms. Fetzek spoke about her experiences with elevating Climate and Security in the work of policy makers in the U.S. Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Next week she will travel to Wellington, New Zealand to join the 2019 Pacific Environmental Security Forum co-hosted by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the theme: “Building Resilience in the Pacific”. Tobias von Lossow, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute, addressed recent Climate and Security Developments in the PSI spotlight regions Iraq and Mali. He specifically focused on the relationship and inter-linkages of climate change adaptation measures, central to the defense sector, and the conflict and security situation in these cases. He gave an update of recent events in Iraq and Mali (see also our coverage here and here) which underlined how precarious the security situation is on the ground and illustrated their connection to natural resource stress in these countries.

Dr. Nicolas Regaud on the Climate and Security Podcast

In the latest episode of The Climate and Security Podcast, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty talks to Dr. Nicolas Regaud, Special Representative to the Indo-Pacific of the Director General for International Relations and Strategy at the French Ministry of Armed Forces, and Participant in the International Military Council on Climate and Security. Nicolas explains the French point of view on the importance of acting efficiently on climate change, given that there are French nationals and territories all over the world and in areas especially vulnerable to the impacts of a warming planet. The French military plays a critical role in safeguarding its global citizens, neighbors and critical infrastructure against the impacts of climate change; as well as in providing maritime security in close partnership with regional allies. Listen to this episode to learn more about French defense activities globally and in the key warming-affected region of the Indo-Pacific.

The Center for Climate and Security’s video podcast takes climate change out of its environmental box, and brings it to the big kid’s table of national and international security. Featuring a series of exclusive dialogues with leading security, military and foreign affairs experts, the podcast explores our responsibility to prepare for a rapidly-changing world.

Subscribe to the Center for Climate and Security’s YouTube channel to never miss an episode! Or listen to the audio version on iTunes or Stitcher, and subscribe now to get real-time updates. If you’re one of those already subscribed on iTunes, we always welcome your ratings and reviews, as this helps us get the podcast out there to more listeners!

IMCCS Leaders in New Australian Documentary on Climate and Security

Breakthrough, an independent Australian think tank, today released Part One of its new climate and security documentary, Home Front. In it, interviewees from the military, business and humanitarian communities describe the myriad security threats driven by a changing climate, ranging from political instability and economic collapse, to sea level rise risks to Australia’s numerous military installations along its significant coastline.

The 15-minute segment also touches on the controversial climate-migration nexus, which if misinterpreted could feed hyper-nationalist narratives and policies that themselves can have a destabilizing effect on security. However, as one interviewee, John Blackburn AO, Former Deputy Chief of the Royal Australian Airforce, wisely notes:

Simply putting up a barrier, and running around with a few Navy ships and contract ships stopping people coming in boats, might work today, it will not work in ten or fifteen years if what we anticipate with climate change happens.

The documentary also features key experts from the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), among others.

Sherri Goodman, Secretary General of the IMCCS and
Senior Strategist with the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), notes in the segment that our current response to climate change is not commensurate to its threat profile. Specifically:

In the Cold War, we spent billions of dollars of American GDP to deter and prevent a low probability but very high consequence event of the threat of a bolt out of the blue nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. Today, we face a threat in climate change that is higher probability, and equally high consequence, and yet we are not addressing it with the same alarm and attention.

Dr. Michael Thomas, retired Major in the Australian Army, Participant in the IMCCS and Senior Fellow for Security Sector Education at CCS, highlights the unpreparedness of the Australian Defence Force to deal with cascading, simultaneous disasters resulting from climatic changes, or as he calls it, the “risk of simultaneity.” Full quote:

Consider for example, if we were to have an extreme weather event in the South Pacific, maybe we would have two in the future scenarios. How does the ADF [the Australian Defence Force] actually respond to those two simultaneous events. The military often call this the risk of simultaneity. The ability for the Australian Defence Force to respond to multiple events. Climate change poses such scenarios.

Admiral (Ret) Chris Barrie, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force (Ret), focuses on the connection between climate change and instability, stating:

Instability becomes the term that we use in connection with climate change consequences. But instability means people getting angry and doing something about it.

In all, the interviewees seemed to agree that Australia has a lot more to do in order to comprehensively meet the threat of a changing climate.

To watch the full segment, click here. There’s a short trailer for Part 2 at the end of it.

Louise Van Schaik on the Climate and Security Podcast

In the latest episode of The Climate and Security Podcast, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty talks to Louise Van Schaik, Senior Member of the Executive Committee of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). Louise discusses the relationship between climate change, security and migration from a European perspective. She describes the evolution of the Planetary Security Initiative and how it had worked to help reduce and reverse security risks associated with climate change. She emphasizes the importance of identifying and undertaking climate adaptation actions for the purpose of conflict prevention and peace building efforts. Check out the incredible examples Louise provides in this episode!

The Center for Climate and Security’s video podcast takes climate change out of its environmental box, and brings it to the big kid’s table of national and international security. Featuring a series of exclusive dialogues with leading security, military and foreign affairs experts, the podcast explores our responsibility to prepare for a rapidly-changing world.

Subscribe to the Center for Climate and Security’s YouTube channel to never miss an episode! Or listen to the audio version on iTunes or Stitcher, and subscribe now to get real-time updates. If you’re one of those already subscribed on iTunes, we always welcome your ratings and reviews, as this helps us get the podcast out there to more listeners!

The IMCCS on NBC

In an article published on Saturday, NBC News‘ Linda Givetash covered the growing trend of militaries taking concrete steps to address the threat of climate change, including efforts by NATO militaries to enhance energy efficiency in the context of the NATO mission. As Givetash notes, “military officials from 29 countries — including the United States — will test whether energy efficient equipment and hybrid diesel-solar power systems can be easily integrated into their operations in Poland this June.”

For the piece, Givetash highlighted the “newly established International Military Council on Climate and Security“, noting that the IMCCS “aims to bring the impact of climate change on natural disasters and conflicts to the forefront of military strategy.” Givetash spoke with both IMCCS Secretary General Sherri Goodman, and IMCCS Chair General Tom Middendorp. From the article:

Hon. Sherri Goodman: “Militaries are great planning organizations, we need to utilize that great planning capability to get further ahead of the climate threat than we have…”

General Tom Middendorp: “For the military, it’s very important to understand the root causes of a conflict and not deal with the symptoms alone,” he said. “The more that you can address the [root causes], the less you have to fight over it, and it saves lives.”

Click here for the full piece.

General Middendorp on the Climate and Security Podcast

In the latest episode of The Climate and Security Podcast, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty talks to General Tom Middendorp, Chair of the International Military Council on Climate and Security and former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands. General Middendorp talks about being a commander in South Afghanistan, and how even after driving out the Taliban in one case, conflict persisted due to disputes over the division of water. He describes firsthand experiences from across twenty missions on how climate change and human impacts can amplify war and negate best efforts at peacekeeping. He discusses the importance of cooperation across aid workers, diplomats, policymakers, military coalitions and other stakeholders to pursue stability at a global scale. Tom emphasizes the role defence communities can play in terms of offering opportunities to visionaries to develop ideas such as an innovation that extracts water out of dry, desert air.  Hear this unique perspective – from the former highest-ranking military officer in the Dutch Armed forces – on overcoming the challenges at the nexus of climate and security.

The Center for Climate and Security’s video podcast takes climate change out of its environmental box, and brings it to the big kid’s table of national and international security. Featuring a series of exclusive dialogues with leading security, military and foreign affairs experts, the podcast explores our responsibility to prepare for a rapidly-changing world.

Subscribe to the Center for Climate and Security’s YouTube channel to never miss an episode! Or listen to the audio version on iTunes or Stitcher, and subscribe now to get real-time updates. If you’re one of those already subscribed on iTunes, we always welcome your ratings and reviews, as this helps us get the podcast out there to more listeners!

IMCCS in the News

The announcement of the creation of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) at the Hague on February 19 received international news coverage. Below are four noteworthy articles following the announcement.