The 21st Century will be defined by unprecedented risks and unprecedented foresight. International security institutions and governments have a “Responsibility to Prepare” for this future.
Launch Report: “A Responsibility To Prepare: Governing in an Age of Unprecedented Risk and Unprecedented Foresight,” August 7, 2017
Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia, Sherri Goodman, Shiloh Fetzek, The Center for Climate and Security
Briefing to the UN Security Council: “A Responsibility to Prepare,” December 15, 2017, Caitlin Werrell, The Center for Climate and Security
Video, Prepared remarks, Meeting summary
Summary: The world in the 21st century is characterized by both unprecedented risks and unprecedented foresight. Climate change, population shifts and cyber-threats are rapidly increasing the scale and complexity of risks to international security, while technological developments are increasing our capacity to foresee those risks. This world of high consequence risks, which can be better modeled and anticipated than in the past, underscores a clear responsibility for the international community: A “Responsibility to Prepare.” This responsibility, which builds on hard-won lessons of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework for preventing and responding to mass atrocities, requires a reform of existing governance institutions to ensure that critical, nontraditional risks to international security, such as climate change, are anticipated, analyzed and addressed systematically, robustly and rapidly by intergovernmental security institutions and the security establishments of nations that participate in that system.
A Responsibility to Prepare agenda should be developed and adopted by all nations, while adhering to the overarching principle of “climate-proofing” security institutions at the international, regional and national levels. That climate-proofing would include routinizing, integrating, institutionalizing and elevating attention to climate and security issues at these bodies, as well as establishing rapid response mechanisms, and developing contingencies for potential unintended consequences.
Such an agenda – focused as it is on reforming security institutions – would ensure that critical nontraditional challenges, such as climate change, are appropriately managed as global security risks, rather than as niche concerns. A practical fulfillment of the goals and principles articulated in this Responsibility to Prepare framework would increase the likelihood of more stable governance in the face of rapid but foreseeable change.
Roadmap and Recommendations: The Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG): “A Responsibility to Prepare – Strengthening National and Homeland Security in the Face of a Changing Climate,” February 26, 2018
The CSAG, a voluntary, non-partisan group of 54 U.S.-based military, national security, homeland security, intelligence and foreign policy experts from a broad range of institutions, is chaired by the Center for Climate and Security in partnership with the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. On February 2018, the group released a new roadmap and recommendations report calling on the U.S. government to to follow the advice of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who argued for a “whole-of-government response” to climate change during his confirmation process.
The report notes that given the threats of climate change identified by the defense, national security and intelligence communities, a rise in destructive climate-driven impacts on the U.S., and an increased capacity to foresee these risks, the U.S. government has a “Responsibility to Prepare” to address these challenges at home and abroad. Specifically, the group recommends that the Administration do so through three lines of effort: Assess, Prepare, and Support.
The European Union (EU) has recognized the high-probability, high impact threat climate change poses to international security, but is still formulating a response commensurate to the threat. In this report from the Center for Climate and Security, in partnership with the Clingendael Institute and in support of the Planetary Security Initiative, the authors argue that the security threats of climate change should be more routinely integrated into EU institutions at a senior level and be elevated alongside other ‘traditional’ security issues like terrorism and nuclear threats. As the EU’s conflict prevention mechanisms are making progress in better-addressing climate risks, the report gives detailed recommendations on what a response scaled to the threat of climate change across EU bodies could look like. The report was released in advance of a critical climate and security meeting of European Union (EU) security leaders on June 22, led by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.