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Addressing the Interplay of Climate Change, Food and National Security: Event Summary

A CCS Report by Patricia Parera
Edited by Brigitte Hugh, Erin Sikorsky, and Francesco Femia


This event report is the first of a new initiative by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) dedicated to shining a light on the U.S. national security benefits of addressing climate change, food insecurity, and stability together. The Feeding Resilience: Climate Change and Food Insecurity Impacts on U.S. National Security Project (Feeding Resilience) is framed by the twin premises that international stability is foundational to U.S. national security and that food security is foundational to international stability. Thus, efforts to bolster the integrity of regional and global food systems can be viewed through a security lens, which is especially true in an era of accelerating climate change, instability and conflict.

This report presents the key takeaways of the first policy discussion, Feeding Resilience: Addressing the Interplay of Climate Change, Food and National Security, held in Washington, DC and virtually on 12 June, 2023, in a series of roundtables that CCS is organizing to engage with climate, security, development, humanitarian, and food security policymakers, practitioners, and academics. The purpose of the roundtables is to share experiences about the nexus of climate change, food insecurity, instability and national security in an effort to identify policy gaps and elicit recommendations and best practices that will serve as a foundation for the CCS’s Feeding Resilience project.

To ground these discussions, the roundtables use concrete case studies focused on the nexus of food, climate, and security in specific countries to help understand and document the different issues, approaches, and advances within these sectors and the relevant communities of practice. The roundtables will be one of a number of inputs for a policy report and actionable recommendations to be presented to policymakers in 2024.

The objective of the June 2023 roundtable was to increase connections among policymakers, the private sector, thought leaders, and civil society, and seek to identify holistic and feasible opportunities to increase investment in global climate adaptation, resilience practices, and food systems innovations as a security imperative. The discussion included Ethiopia as a case study to illustrate these themes.

Participants representing multilateral development banks (MDBs), technical agencies of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United States government agencies and the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) team took part in the half-day event. The roundtable was held under “Chatham House Rule.”1 The list of participants, agenda, and presentations are available at

The agenda included a set of questions2 shared with the roundtable participants to focus the discussion on specific challenges and opportunities. A moderator led the discussion based on questions suggested in the agenda (see Annex 1). Below is a summary of key takeaways from the policy discussion.


Feeding Resilience: A Review of Policies at the Intersection of Climate Change, Food Security and National Security Policy

A CCS Report by Patricia Parera and Brigitte Hugh
Edited by Tom Ellison and Francesco Femia

Executive Summary

This report is the first of a new initiative by The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) dedicated to shining a light on the U.S. national security benefits of addressing climate change, food insecurity, and stability together. The report begins by outlining the global state of play on food security, followed by a preliminary assessment of existing U.S. initiatives that could be scaled up to increase the impact of the government’s response to climate change, food insecurity, and national security. Currently, policies and interventions often include two of the focus areas but are rarely scoped to consider all three. Thus, this landscape assessment focuses on three current nexus areas: (1) food insecurity and national security, (2) food insecurity and climate change, and (3) climate change and national security.

Following are preliminary key findings and policy recommendations considered to be a priority for policymaking action.

Climate Security at the 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund

By Elsa Barron and Patricia Parera

As noted by the 2022 US National Security Strategy (NSS) 2022, “The climate crisis is the existential challenge of our time.” 

In this context of enhanced urgency on the crisis, climate change– and its interconnectedness with peace, development, and humanitarian challenges– was a key subject of discussion at the 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC this April. Climate change creates disproportionate and adverse effects for at-risk populations and as the negative impacts of climate change intensify, they can contribute to compounding security risks such as loss of livelihoods, competition for natural resources, migration, internal displacement, political unrest, diminished social cohesion, increased recruitment by violent extremist organizations (VEOs), malign influence by state and non-state actors, and more military deployments in response to an increased scale and tempo of natural disasters.

One of the best ways to prevent these downstream impacts is to invest in adaptation and resilience in the communities that need it most. Multilateral development banks (MDBs) such as the WBG and the IMF are one resource for delivering these climate security investments as temperatures and tensions rise. 

In its feature story on the meetings, the World Bank Group (WBG) notes that, “Positive strides were taken during the meetings in the ongoing Evolution Roadmap process, which is designed to bolster the WBG’s ability to confront the complicated development landscape and devote more resources to global challenges, like climate change, pandemics, and fragility.” The continued acknowledgment of these three interconnected, systemic global challenges by multilateral development banks will hopefully create important levers for climate security investments and action. 

The Spring Meetings served as a progress check for the Evolution Roadmap, which, in its introduction, acknowledges that “Climate change impacts, ranging from floods and droughts to locust invasions, are jeopardizing hundreds of millions of lives and livelihoods, creating hunger, conflict and forced displacement,” and later asks how these global challenges can inform the World Bank’s core mission. The following discussions from the Spring Meetings provide important context for answering that question. 

Investing in Food and Water Security

Global security hinges on water security. Dr. Nadeem Javaid, Chief Economist, Government of Pakistan, and Dr. Claudia Sadoff, CGIAR Executive Managing Director explained in the forum, “Financing for Water Action in a Changing Climate,” that water stress or water-related disasters are often the first way that communities directly experience the impacts of climate change. They argued that in addressing near-term water crises, governments and investors need to move beyond humanitarian responses alone, which are traditionally implemented after a crisis has struck. 

The presenters posited that development funds can build better prediction, preparation, and resilience systems that will make future crises less devastating. Examples given in the same session include support for policy-targeted research to improve the quality and timing of responses to water disasters such as more accurate long-range flood forecasting, flood and crop insurance for farmers, stronger soil moisture management and drainage, more drought-tolerant wheat and maize, rice that can withstand greater saltwater intrusion, and solar irrigation practices that already support millions of farmers in South Asia. Systemic global challenges highlight the need to break down the silos between climate, security, humanitarian, and development actors in planning for and implementing these solutions. 

Meeting Adaptation and Security Needs

In a session titled, “Pathways for Peace: Progress on Preventing Conflict,” the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation and Minister for Global Climate Policy, Dan Jørgensen, explained that adaptation to climate change and conflict prevention are a single issue, pointing to the significance of the US CNA Military Advisory Board identifying climate change as a challenge for security, nearly a decade before the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as global targets.

In creating climate adaptation solutions that promote peace, many discussants emphasized the importance of addressing increasing migration as armed conflict, violence, climate change, and economic shocks have increased the number of displaced people. Policy planning and financial investments related to human mobility are key to determining outcomes for communities on the move. 

Some Pacific Island nations are already engaging with relocation as an adaptation measure. In a session titled, “The Imperative of Climate Change Adaptation in East Asia and the Pacific,” a representative from Fiji highlighted the inclusion of relocation as an adaptation strategy in the Climate Change Act 2021. However, relocation raises serious questions about preserving sovereignty and culture, which a representative from the Marshall Islands emphasized in a definition of security that included three components: the nation, its people, and its thousands-year-old culture. Investment in adaptation planning and consultation can equip nations to uphold this holistic definition of security.

Tackling Debt and Climate Finance

There is a direct relationship between debt and climate shocks, said Ulrich Volz, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS University of London at a session on “Scaling up Climate Finance in Times of Debt Crisis.” Pakistan’s extreme flooding in 2022, illustrative of climate security risks, is a warning of crises to come. The humanitarian and economic costs of this disaster include nearly two thousand lives lost, eight million people displaced from their homes, fifteen billion dollars wiped from the economy, and decades of hard-earned socio-economic gains swept away. 

In this case and others, recovering from disaster can create overwhelming debt, making investments to prepare for future disasters untenable. In many countries today, addressing debt crises is a precondition for accelerating climate action. Targeted liquidity is required to enable the energy transition, adaptation to the impacts of extreme weather, and assurance of security in light of increasing future climate impacts. Multilateral development bank reform is one opportunity to reduce the debt burden for countries facing climate disasters and work towards greater security in outcomes. 

The current state of interconnected systemic challenges, climate adaptation needs, and debt burdens creates an imperative for including climate security analysis in decisions relating to climate finance investments and further integrating climate, security, humanitarian, and development actors. The World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund should continue to pursue these avenues, and given rapidly-rising risks, take more significant and urgent actions in parts of the world most vulnerable to the security implications of a changing climate.

Climate & Food Security on Stage at the Munich Security Conference

By Erin Sikorsky, Patricia Parera, and Brigitte Hugh

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. 

Looking Ahead

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.

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