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The EU Advances a Responsibility to Prepare for Climate and Security Risks


EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini at the high-level climate and security event, June 22, 2018

In August 2017, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) published its “Responsibility to Prepare” framework, which called on national, regional and multilateral security leaders to embrace the responsibility of climate-proofing their institutions (i.e. preparing), on the basis that while climate-security risks are unprecedented, our foresight capabilities regarding those risks are also unprecedented. That was followed up by a presentation of the framework by CCS’s Caitlin Werrell to the UN Security Council in December.

Building from that debut, and in anticipation of a high-level climate and security meeting of the EU External Action Service (EEAS) in June 2018, the Center for Climate and Security and its Dutch partner, the Clingendael Institute, then published a follow-on report tailored for Europe, titled “Europe’s Responsibility to Prepare: Managing Climate Security Risks in a Changing World.” The paper provided a specific set of recommendations for the EU, and member states, for how to go about preparing themselves for those impacts of climate change that could affect European security. CCS’s Shiloh Fetzek, and Clingendael’s Louise van Shaik, presented these recommendations to the EEAS at its June 22 meeting.

One of the most important, top-level principles of both reports has been the need to “elevate” climate and security issues to the highest level of national, regional and intergovernmental security institutions. As noted on page 12 of the Europe report:

Elevating the issue within institutions and ensuring that insights and warnings are delivered to EU bodies by sufficiently senior analysts will be critical for ensuring security preparedness in a climate-changed future, as will contextualising climate risk in the context of other geostrategic priorities.

The results of the EEAS’s high-level event are now in, and that simple concept seems to be one of the top guiding principles for the EU going forward. Embracing a leadership role on the issue, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, backed by Ministers from across (and outside) Europe, affirmed the EU’s responsibility to prepare for climate and security risks, agreeing to “six points for further action.” One of those points for action specifically refers to elevating climate and security issues within Europe, and beyond. From the EEAS’s readout of the event:

Elevate climate-security nexus to highest political level in national, regional and multilateral fora

Today’s institutions and processes must be adapted for tomorrow’s battles, equipped to take up all the challenges of climate change. Reform can deliver with leadership from the top – by the UN, by regional organisations, by heads of state and government. Incorporating climate-security factors into strategic-level policy frameworks and practical guidance at national, regional and multilateral levels is a first step. Expanding diplomatic efforts can remove or alleviate factors of conflict among countries that share climate sensitive resources, such as water and agricultural land, or that have to manage spill-over effects of security implications of climate change, including forced displacement.

Though there is an extraordinary amount of work to do in order to make the response to climate change commensurate to the threat (and to ensure that all nations are playing their part in that common endeavor), this is a very welcome development at the EU.



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