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In an era increasingly defined by climate change, the United States and China stand out as the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases—but neither country is immune to its impacts. China, home to nearly 20% of the world’s population and 6.5% of the Earth’s land surface, faces a number of climate security challenges. A recent report published by the Center for Climate and Security identified three categories of risk: (1) direct risks to military and critical infrastructure; (2) compounding risks to internal political stability as climate change threatens food and water security; and (3) external risks as competition over shared resources is heightened and China contends with the impacts of climate on its more vulnerable neighbors. Not only will the country be affected by climate impacts, but global responses to climate change are also likely to have an impact on the country’s growth prospects and standing on the world stage. How climate change and responses to it influence China’s domestic and foreign interests are significant not only for China but also for the international community, including the United States.
To discuss these themes, the Center for Climate and Security and the Wilson Center are co-hosting a public discussion on Tuesday, April 11th, from 9:30 to 11 am ET on “China’s Climate Security Vulnerabilities”. The discussion, moderated by Wilson Center Program Director Lauren Herzer Risi, will include:
- Robert Daly, Director, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States
- Greg Pollock, Principal Director for Arctic & Global Resilience Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense
- Erin Sikorsky, Director, Center for Climate and Security
- Jennifer L. Turner, Director, China Environment Forum & Manager, Global Choke Point Initiative
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This event will be a live-streamed discussion with in-person participants. We hope that you will join us! Please choose a registration option below to access the full invitation and event details.
Almost a year after the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine began, it was no surprise that the 2023 Munich Security Conference focused on the importance and implications of the ongoing conflict. This focus included a look at the second-order effects of the conflict, such as global food insecurity and the energy transition – a recognition that tackling such transnational challenges are integral to what the conference report identified as a need for “A re-envisioned liberal, rules-based international order…to strengthen democratic resilience in an era of fierce systemic competition with autocratic regimes.”
Underscoring the importance of these issues, early in the conference NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmerman, and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell met to discuss the intersection of climate change and security. As Kerry said, “While we must confront the security risks the world faces head on, we must also do so with an eye to the climate crisis, which is making these dangers worse.”
The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) and the International Military Council for Climate and Security (IMCCS) helped drive the conversation forward on these topics at the conference through two high-level side-events: “Cleaner and Meaner: The Military Energy Security Transition by Design” and “Feeding Climate Resilience: Mapping the Security Benefits of Agriculture and Climate Adaptation.” The events included government officials, NGO and private foundation representatives, defense sector leaders and the media.
Implementing NATO’s Climate Security Action Plan
NATO and IMCCS co-hosted the Cleaner and Meaner side-event, which focused on the challenges and opportunities facing NATO members as they consider the security risks of climate change and the need to transition away from fossil fuel dependence. During the event, the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges David van Weel, said that the alliance needs “to mainstream climate change and energy transition considerations into the entire NATO enterprise, including training, exercising, force planning, and the development and procurement of military capabilities.”
The conversation culminated in three key takeaways: first, public-private partnerships are critical for decarbonizing defense. As one participant put it, militaries must work with the private sector to more quickly turn clean energy technologies into capabilities. Second, competing timelines are a key challenge for militaries – the need to resupply today in the face of the Ukraine conflict with the longer timeline needed to integrate new clean energy technologies. Further complicating matters is the fact that equipment procured today may not be as useful in a warming world, and participants noted militaries will need to reexamine their assumptions and strategic planning priorities to manage such change. A third takeaway was the importance of focusing on the operational benefits of clean energy for the military. Demonstrating that investments in clean energy will help militaries achieve their core duties will help speed the transition.
The Food and Climate Security Nexus
The Feeding Climate Resilience side-event hosted by CCS explored the intersection of food insecurity, climate change, and conflict. As one participant put it, investing in stable ground through climate and agricultural adaptation ensures that the soil is less fertile for insurgencies. The conversation emphasized three key needs: (1) the adoption of a more holistic and systems approach to the issues of climate change, food insecurity, and instability; (2) an increase in technology innovation in agriculture; and (3) more inclusive policy and decision making, from the subnational to international level. Participants discussed the need to develop, collect and disseminate concrete examples of successful and sustainable climate and food security-related initiatives which reduce conflict and build peace.
Participants underscored the security benefits of increased support for sustainable development policies and technological innovations that promote climate-smart agriculture and investments in science and technology that target the needs of small farmers–especially women. The conversation also identified the importance of scaling up climate finance and developing more responsive and inclusive planning and policy systems for finance, water management, and markets. Perhaps the most crucial lesson in addressing the current food security challenge is the importance of partnerships, particularly at the local and subnational level and between the private sector, government and civil society, among others. South-South cooperation and Triangular cooperation, or that between developed and developing countries, is also critical. The most promising multilateral partnerships are in areas like science and technology, because they can leverage the immense capabilities and assets of the private sector in cooperation with government and civil society.
The group concluded that tackling these issues requires a new Green Revolution. Research and innovation in agriculture are at the core of long-term food security and diminish the possibility of conflict, instability, and hunger, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Additionally, the conversation on food and climate must include water advocates as water is a key socio-economic driver for sustainable growth, livelihood, justice, food security, and labor. Without equitable and secure access to water for all, there can be no sustainable development or climate security.
CCS and IMCCS look forward to acting on the priorities outlined by participants in both sessions through targeted research, policy development and community building to increase awareness and investment in the military energy transition, agricultural adaptation, food security, and climate resilience.
Featured image sourced from: MSC / David Hecker, Munich Security Conference.
“We have got to get busy deploying dollars and energy and ingenuity to tackle the problem,” said Gillian Caldwell, Chief Climate Officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at a recent Center for Climate and Security (CCS) event: “U.S. Climate Security Investments: Changing Plans into Actions” (watch the whole event below)(more…)
Join the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) on June 14, 2022 at 2 p.m. EST for a panel discussion featuring senior U.S. government officials to discuss the climate funding included in the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Budget Request (register here).
- Joe Bryan, Senior Advisor for Climate, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense
- Teresa Pohlman, Executive Director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs, Department of Homeland Security
- Gillian Caldwell, Chief Climate Officer, U.S. Agency for International Development
- Jesse Young, Senior Advisor, Office of the Senior Presidential Envoy for Climate, U.S. State Department
Earlier this year, the Climate and Security Advisory Group published the report, Challenge Accepted, which lauded the fact that the Administration had declared climate change to be an essential element of national security and foreign policy, but called upon the U.S. government to move from words to deeds.
A key ingredient in accomplishing the aims of established U.S. climate security strategy is the financial resources necessary to fuel the transformation from plans to action. The President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request, submitted to Congress in March, proposes an unprecedented amount of funding dedicated to addressing climate security issues. Which provokes questions like: Is it enough? Is it in the right places? And what forward progress will it actually enable?
Register to attend here.