“How is Canada preparing to address the environmental impacts on security?” That was the question debated in a packed auditorium at the Canadian Forces College (CFC) on 12 February, 2020. The “Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear” Symposium hosted by the Canadian Forces College (Toronto, Canada) was organized by the College’s Department of Innovative Studies and aimed to sensitize participating students, both Canadian and international (to include audiences tuning in from the United Nations, and the Baltic Defence College) on the security implications of climate change. The expert opinions provided by both Canadian and American national security advisors and analysts, to include Center for Climate and Security Fellows Captain Steve Brock and Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett (both US Navy, retired), helped to frame, and imbue an enhanced understanding of, how Canada’s national and human security imperatives fit into the climate change discourse.
Climate change has never been very prominent at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), a leading forum for senior military, security and foreign policy leaders. That changed this year, with the release of the “World Climate and Security Report 2020” by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). The report featured prominently on the MSC stage – at the opening “Hashtag Event” on February 13 and in a later event on the Main Stage on February 15 – which even featured strong U.S. bipartisan support for comprehensive policies combating climate change. These events included powerful contributions from General Tom Middendorp, Chair of the IMCCS, and former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands. These were reinforced by other IMCCS voices during the World Climate and Security Report 2020 side event on February 15, in the media, and by senior defense leaders and IMCCS staff in Luxembourg. Below is a description of the key climate security events during this extraordinary three days – three days of climate change being elevated, as it should be, to some of the highest levels of the international security discourse. The next step will be translating this discourse into actions that are commensurate to the threat.
Munich, Germany, February 13, 2020 — This year climate change is more central than ever at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), the leading international forum for senior military, security and foreign policy leaders, with the release of the inaugural “World Climate and Security Report 2020” by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). The release will be announced by General (Ret) Tom Middendorp, Chair of the IMCCS, at the conference’s “Apocalypse Now? – Climate and Security” opening event at 16:15pm CET on February 13 (open to the public), followed by an MSC event on the report at 16:00pm CET on February 15 (open to registered MSC participants). The IMCCS is a group of senior military leaders, security experts, and security institutions across the globe – currently from 32 countries in every hemisphere – dedicated to anticipating, analyzing, and addressing the security risks of a changing climate.
The report finds that security and military experts are increasingly concerned about the security implications of climate change, with many perceiving the risks to global security to be significant or higher in the next two decades, and recommends “climate-proofing” international security – including infrastructure, institutions and policies – as well as major emissions reductions to avoid significant-to-catastrophic security threats.
In highlighting the key findings of the report, and the rationale for releasing it at the MSC, General Middendorp, former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands, stated:
“Climate change poses significant risks to global security, which could become catastrophic in the next two decades. As this report, and the 32-country International Military Council on Climate and Security shows, more and more military leaders are raising this alarm. It’s not just environmentalists. The security community therefore has a responsibility to prepare for and prevent these threats, including through climate-proofing international security at all levels. That’s why we’ve brought the World Climate and Security Report to the Munich Security Conference.” – General (Ret) Tom Middendorp, Chair, IMCCS
On January 25, New Zealand’s Minister of Defence Ron Mark, and a team of senior defense leaders including the New Zealand Secretary of Defence and Chief of the Navy, met with the Center for Climate and Security’s and Council on Strategic Risks’ leadership to discuss the security and military implications of climate change, and what the United States and New Zealand can learn from each other. This was part of NZ Defence Minister Ron Mark’s visit to Washington, DC that included meeting with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. See the press release here. Click here for more on recent climate security actions by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence, and here for equivalent information on the U.S. Department of Defense.
On December 8, 2019, the New Zealand Minister of Defence Hon. Ron Mark, with Minister for Climate Change Hon James Shaw, released a Climate Change Implementation Work Plan for its defence force, titled Responding to the Climate Crisis: An Implementation Plan. The plan was co-produced by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force. To read the full report, click here, and to read the press release, click here. A contact in the New Zealand Ministry of Defence sent along the following summary of the report:
Last week, the Federal News Network’s “Federal Drive” ran an interview with the IMCCS’s Senior Advisor and Manager, Francesco Femia, regarding a recent U.S. Army War College report that alarmingly found the U.S. military “precariously underprepared for the national security implications of climate change-induced global security challenges.” Femia highlighted the key takeaways from the report, including an extraordinary finding specific to the Army, which stated that the service “precipitously close to mission failure concerning hydration of the force in contested arid environments.” Femia recommended that both technical, as well as big strategic and operational changes and investments, are needed to prepare the Army, and the broader U.S. military, for this rapidly-changing operational landscape – including to prepare for the likelihood of adversaries taking advantage of these changes, and a lack of U.S. leadership for addressing them. Click here for the full interview.
Stockholm, October 23, 2019 – Climate change poses serious challenges to current and future peacebuilding missions, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which studies the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). Climate change amplifies existing challenges and strengthens radical groups. At the same time, climate change forces missions to think out of the box with UNSOM proving to be an encouraging example.
In a recent speech to the European Parliament, General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence of the Netherlands (Ret), and Chair of the IMCCS, made a bold case for significant preventive and preparatory action on climate change. First, highlighting the threat, he noted:
This article was first published by the Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations.
INTRODUCTION: The public meeting is organised by the Netherlands Atlantic Youth and study association BASIS. Speakers are Clingendael’s Senior Associate Fellow Tom Middendorp and ICCT’s Senior Research Fellow Liesbeth van der Heide. Register here.
Climate change is increasingly becoming a security issue
Drought, degradation and severe floods: climate change is increasingly becoming a security issue. The recent instabilities in the Sahel region, such as the uprisings in Mali and Nigeria and the civil war in Sudan, indicate a connection between climate change and security.
A quick read of daily headlines makes it increasingly clear that current international governance structures are not fully prepared for the security risks of a changing climate. In response to these mounting risks, the Center for Climate and Security – an IMCCS founding partner – is releasing a report calling for a framework for using our unprecedented foresight capabilities to anticipate and prevent the unprecedented security risks of climate change. Titled The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent (R2P2): A Climate Security Governance Framework for the 21st Century, authors Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia identify three critical gaps in the international governance of climate security risks that have stalled preparedness and prevention. The report also offers three concrete proposals for filling those gaps to make sure the world avoids the worst of these risks on the horizon. Click here for the full report, and see below for the Executive Summary.