Climate Security Snapshot: The Balkans

July 25, 2022 | A volume of the World Climate and Security Report 2022

By Elsa Barron and Hugo van Manen

Executive Summary

The cover of the report.

This report represents findings from analysis of climate security risks in the Balkans using the Climate Security Risk Index (CSRI). Of the climate change hazards covered by the CSRI in the Balkans, an ethnically diverse geographic grouping of ten countries, droughts pose the largest threat to the region’s stability and prosperity. The Balkans face some of the most severe climate risks compared with the rest of Europe.

Those climate risks have a diversity of security impacts. For example, climate change—by placing pressure on the region’s resources—risks exacerbating existing ethnopolitical faultlines, opening the door to the potential resurgence of conflict and/or political instability in the process.

Climate impacts may also reverse progress on climate mitigation through renewable energy development, given the significance of hydropower as a domestic energy source in Balkan nations. Drought significantly reduces hydropower production and may spark increased reliance on polluting fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas—counter to European energy goals. Foreign actors willing to invest in these environmentally regressive projects, primarily Russia and China, have the opportunity to expand their influence in the region to the detriment of European interests.

Finally, climate change contributes to increased migration flows from the Middle East and Africa, through the region, and towards other parts of Europe, increasing the risk of anti-immigrant extremism and violence.

The Balkans have a relatively moderate resilience when compared against the global average, meaning that it is more prepared than some other vulnerable regions across the globe to manage internal climate risks. However, this does not in any way make it immune to those risks or their security implications.


The report warns that the Balkans face serious climate security risks. Intensifying climate change impacts such as drought, heatwaves (as witnessed this summer), and tropical storms may heighten existing post-conflict tensions, threaten Europe’s broader climate goals, and increase the region’s susceptibility to influence from the Russian and Chinese governments. Additionally, climate-induced migration flows from the Middle East and Africa through the region may be exploited by far right extremists. The ongoing conflict in neighboring Ukraine only further heightens these concerns.

According to the CSRI, when compared to other parts of Europe, the Balkans face some of the most severe climate risks. When compared to other regions globally, climate risks in the Balkans fall slightly below average. The region’s resilience falls almost exactly in the middle of the global standard (though it is a standard which is dropping due to accelerating climate change), and all nations in the region except Albania at least slightly outperform in resilience when compared to risk. However, those relative measures do not minimize the region’s significant vulnerability to increasing climate disasters, especially when compared to other parts of Europe, not least given a recent history of ethnic and sectarian conflict, which studies have shown increases the likelihood of climate-driven conflict. 

Additionally, the report asserts that engaged climate security action—at a scale commensurate to the rapidly-increasing risks—can offer positive opportunities for post-conflict peacebuilding and cooperation in the Balkans, and can build a strong framework of human security for the region. Such efforts will be critical to continuing to mitigate and adapt to climate change and build peace, security, and climate resilience.

Release Materials

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