“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.
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:
By Marc Kodack
A recent article published in The Telegraph summarizes the text of a prepared speech by Australia’s Defence Force Chief, General Angus Campbell, which was described as “signed off by all of Defence, including the Chief of the Defence Force, as their official views… on climate change as a national security threat.” The speech was given at an invitation-only event in Australia; thus, it is unclear if the text was presented only as written. In the speech, a reference is made to Australia sending more military personnel to assist with climate-related disasters, both domestic and international, than it had at any one time in Afghanistan to conduct military operations. The speech states that Australia is in “the most natural disaster-prone region in the world” and that “climate change is predicted to make disasters more extreme and more common.” It also warns that the Federal Government’s actions on climate change could “affect relationships with Pacific island nations, who have repeatedly called on Australia to do more to reduce carbon emissions.” In that context, it warns of China filling the gap in leadership left by Australian policy, stating:
According to Kenya’s NTV News, during a closing ceremony after a joint exercise between the Kenyan and Jordanian armed forces, Kenya’s Defense Cabinet Secretary, Raychelle Awour Omamo, identified climate change, environmental degradation and health security as “the major security threats emerging in Kenya today.” Cabinet Secretary Omamo stated: “These nontraditional security challenges continue to threaten the state and international peace.”
In a September 5th interview with Andrea Mitchell, former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke about the importance of addressing the security threat of climate change, much as he did while he was Secretary of Defense from 2017-2019. In particular, he addressed skeptical audiences, stating: “why wouldn’t we take out an insurance policy and do prudent steps to make certain the generation that’s coming up is not going to be caught flat-footed by this?” Here’s the clip:
In case you missed it: The South Pacific Defense Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) issued two important products in May demonstrating heightened concern about the defense implications of climate change among regional militaries. This includes:
- A Joint Communiqué from the SPDMM, as represented by Australia, Chile, Fiji, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga
- A report commissioned by the 2017 SPDMM, titled “Implications of Climate Change on Defence and Security in the South Pacific by 2030,” coordinated by the Observatory on Defence and Climate at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) – a core member of the IMCCS Leadership Consortium.
The communiqué is an admirably robust one, with point number 9, for example, stating:
We acknowledge the 2018 Boe Declaration’s affirmation that “climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific peoples” and recognised climate change as a challenge for which regional defence organisations must be ready.
The Executive Summary of the commissioned report notes, among other key findings:
There is no doubt that climate change will remain a significant security challenge to the Pacific region in the coming decades. While some see climate change as a security concern in its own right, it can be viewed as a risk multiplier in the Pacific— climate change exacerbates and complicates state fragility, conflict dynamics, economic vulnerability and threatens many aspects of human security (McPherson, 2017).
Both are worth a full read.
By Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, U.S. Navy (Retired), IMCCS Americas Liaison
The Center for Climate and Security published several analyses this year explaining how climate dynamics have contributed to migration crises emanating from the Northern Triangle (i.e. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) and Venezuela. See here and here. These crises continue to affect neighboring states, especially states that vulnerable populations perceive as offering greener pastures. Though the ways in which environmental trends affect at-risk populations is well known, how these trends affect national stability and security is largely underappreciated and under-discussed. More specifically, how climate-related trends might disrupt military capabilities and facilities, including military training ranges and bases, within contexts increasingly defined by the fallout of climate related/driven crises, has yet to fully permeate military thought and strategic planning. This article briefly explores the climate – security linkages within the Latin American context, and discusses what regional militaries need to do to stay ahead of strategic risks that put their effectiveness at risk.
To read the full briefer, click here.
In the latest episode of The Climate and Security Podcast, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty talks to Jamie Shea, Secretary General of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO. Shea discusses how climate change is happening faster than initially predicted and what this acceleration means for global security. He describes the tensions between climate change mitigation and adaptation in terms of resource allocation and prioritization and how both must occur simultaneously. Jamie provides global security policy insight that only someone who has had a 39-year long career at NATO can provide. Enjoy this informative and unique global perspective from Jamie Shea!
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 international affairs experts, the podcast explores our responsibility to prepare for a rapidly-changing world.
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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.