In a new Op-ed in Politico, General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence of the Netherlands(Ret) and Chair of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), puts a twist on Georges Clemenceau’s famous saying that “war is too important to be left to the generals,” with “don’t leave climate to the environment ministers.” In it, he encourages the European Commission’s President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen (who will take office on November 1), to continue her track record of taking climate security risks seriously during her tenure. To explain, he states:
Climate change will affect every aspect of our lives and every portfolio of every government — from economic performance to managing borders. The issue has to be the top item on every ministerial brief — including, importantly, those responsible for defense and security.
Climate change is not just an environmental problem. It is an existential challenge. To fight it also means dealing with its secondary effects — displacement, conflict and violence — and making it a focus of our security policy.
General Middendorp has become an international leader on climate and security. Hopefully his voice will help spur security, defense and foreign affairs leaders across the world to step up the scale and urgency of their response to the rising security consequences of a changing climate.
Watch this Space: From August 28-29, EU defence ministers (the ministers of defence from each of the EU nations), will meet to discuss “new technologies and the changing world,” and “the effect of climate change on defence and security” will be a major part of the agenda, along with other rapid changes affecting the operational landscape of EU militaries, such as artificial intelligence. The meeting is being hosted in Helsinki by Finland, who currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union (the EU governing body made up of government ministers of the EU’s member states), and will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Climate change will be discussed at the meeting’s first working session on Thursday, August 29. Click here for the announcement, and stay tuned for a readout of the meeting!
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.
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.