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EU to Focus on Climate Diplomacy, Security, Stability and Migration Links


European flags in front of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, Photo by Elwood J Blues

The EU Council recently issued “Conclusions on European climate diplomacy after COP21.” A significant portion of these conclusions focused specifically on the intersection of climate change, security, stability and migration. In the context of an unstable Middle East and North Africa, this is not surprising. However, it does suggest that all EU member states appreciate the intersection of climate change and state stability in a significant way.

The EU Council’s conclusions included a goal of producing a climate diplomacy action plan that would involve three main areas of focus, with the third very explicitly addressing concerns over “stability and migration”: 

  • Maintaining climate change advocacy as a strategic priority in diplomatic dialogues, public diplomacy and external policy instruments;
  • Supporting implementation of the Paris Agreement and the intended nationally determined contributions (INDC), in the context of low-emission and climate-resilient development;
  • Increasing efforts to address the nexus of climate change, natural resources, including water, prosperity, stability and migration.

The conclusions also emphasized that climate change should be better integrated into other global governance fora including the G7, G20 and the UN.

Specifically on climate change and security:

  1. The Council underlines the need for the EU and its Member States to keep working to address the direct and indirect international security impacts of climate change. For example, as part of the EU Global Strategy, the EU should therefore work at addressing the strategic and multifaceted threat posed by climate change. The potentially destabilising effects of climate change (including on migration, food security, reliable access to resources, water and energy, spread of epidemic disease, and social and economic instability) should be addressed by the EU, its Member States and partner countries, including through climate risk assessments and support to capacity building. In this context, the EU looks forward to the UN Security Council continuing its work on Climate Change.

With regards to climate change and migration:

  1. The Council recognises climate change as a contributing factor to migration resulting from state fragility, insecurity and resource scarcity. By further analysing climate vulnerability links with fragility and security risk, the EU will be in a better position to identify areas where combined risks are particularly high and where there are critical opportunities for conflict prevention and resilience, including in the context of a wider migration challenge. One of the key aspects of the EU climate diplomacy should be practical support for mitigation and adaptation policies in third countries through the implementation and update of INDCs and comprehensive long-term low emission development strategies aiming at global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and increasing climate resilience, while taking into account third countries’ priorities and circumstances.

The Annex to the conclusion “Elements for climate diplomacy action in 2016” lists specific action-items for each of the three focus areas. The action items for climate and stability are as follows:

Actions under strand three: Increase efforts to address the nexus between climate, natural resources, prosperity and stability.

  • EU and MS will enhance their involvement in the climate and security policy debate at international fora, including the UN Security Council (encouraging the update of the 2009 paper by the SG), the Planetary Security Conference organised by the Netherlands, and other relevant conferences/initiatives organised by MS.
  • The EU and those MS who are part of the G7 will continue engagement via the G7 on climate and fragility, acting on the findings of the G7 report on this subject.
  • EU and MS will continue and enhance the inclusion of climate vulnerability analysis into fragility/security and disasters risk assessments and collaborate on the resulting risk- mitigation efforts, via all appropriate external policy instruments and in collaboration with established networks.
  • The EU will continue its work under the joint EU-UNEP initiative and project on climate and security which specifically address the destabilizing effects of climate change in fragile states.
  • The EU and Member States are encouraged to explore the possibility of developing a list of actions on climate & security.

It is encouraging to see more and sustained attention to the intersection of climate change and security.

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