On Wednesday, at a meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in, Germany, “climate and security” was a major subject in a final communiqué. The G7 nations announced the need for a stronger, collaborative commitment to mitigating risks associated with climate change and state fragility. This announcement coincided with the presentation of a new report, A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks, to the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, produced by an independent consortium of think tanks, adelphi, International Alert, the Wilson Center and the European Union Institute for Security Studies. The final communiqué states emphatically:
Climate change is among the most serious challenges facing our world. It poses a threat to the environment, to global security and economic prosperity. It has the potential to reverse the progress that has been made in the past decades in tackling global poverty. Without adequate mitigation and adaptation efforts, the impacts of rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns heighten the risk of instability and conflict. We must effectively address this challenge.
The report, A New Climate for Peace, represents months worth of research and consultations, and is in many ways a new mile marker for a better global understanding of the relationship between climate risks, and state fragility (and what to do about them). The report identifies seven climate-related risks to peace and security, as well as specifying concrete recommendations for foreign ministers for increasing resiliency within conflict-ridden and fragile states. The executive summary presents a clear assessment of the risk:
Climate change will stress our economic, social, and political systems. Where institutions and governments are unable to manage the stress or absorb the shocks of a changing climate, the risks to the stability of states and societies will increase.
While the report focuses on risks within the most fragile nations, it does not lose sight of the vulnerability of other nations, and their responsibility to act:
But even seemingly stable states can be pushed towards fragility if the pressure is high enough or the shock too great for systems to manage peacefully. Peace and security are paramount for all of us. We all share the risks — and thus we share the responsibility for tackling them.
As Geoff Dabelko, an author the report noted: “This should be squarely at the heart of every foreign policy agenda.” As the report notes, we do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are existing efforts already in place, but the minimal level of commitment needed is making climate security a foreign policy priority. This report and the G7 Foreign Ministers leadership presents an important step forward, but we have a long way to go still.