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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.
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.
CCS and IMCCS to Host Events on Food Security and the Clean Energy Transition at the Munich Security Conference
The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) and the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) in partnership with NATO look forward to hosting innovative conversations on key climate security issues, including food security and the clean energy transition, at the Munich Security Conference set to take place February 17-19, 2023.
Climate change is a strategically significant security risk that will affect our most basic resources, including food, with potentially dire security ramifications. National and international security communities, including militaries and intelligence agencies, understand these risks and are taking action to anticipate them. However, progress in mitigating these risks will require deeper collaboration among the climate change, agriculture and food security, and national security communities through targeted research, policy development, and community building.
In order to address these challenges, CCS will host an interactive roundtable under the title “Feeding Climate Resilience: Mapping the Security Benefits of Agriculture and Climate Adaptation” with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, featuring a high-level discussion aimed at identifying further areas of cooperation among these sectors and exploring possible areas for policy action.
The Clean Energy Transition
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent global energy crisis, coupled with the last few years of unprecedented extreme heat, droughts, and floods, have revealed a new, more complex security reality for NATO countries. Navigating this reality requires militaries to systematically recognize the opportunities and challenges that exist within the nexus between climate change and security, and the global clean energy transition.
The deterioration in Euro-Atlantic security will lead to increases in Alliance military procurement as well as the intensity of training, exercising, and patrolling. Such investment decisions can maintain and enhance operational effectiveness and collective defense requirements by taking advantage of the innovative solutions offered by the green energy transition that are designed for future operating environments while contributing to individual countries’ UNFCCC Paris Agreement commitments. However, it is also important to identify and mitigate new dependencies created by a switch from Russian fossil fuels to a critical minerals supply chain currently dominated by China and to think holistically about interoperability and other factors of relevance to the Alliance.
A roundtable discussion titled “Cleaner and Meaner: The Military Energy Transition by Design” and hosted by IMCCS and NATO will identify key opportunities to speed NATO militaries’ transition to clean energy, as well as challenges/obstacles that require cooperation and strategic planning across the Alliance. The conversation will seek to identify next steps for NATO countries, including through technological innovation and partnerships with the private sector, and builds on conversations about the implementation of climate security planning hosted by IMCCS and NATO at the 2022 conference.
Follow us here and on social media for more coming out of this year’s conversations at MSC.
In Focus: The Interwoven Roots of Systemic Food Insecurity in Palestine
By Elsa Barron
The recent escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza reached a tentative pause in early August, but the systemic shocks of conflict will continue to ripple through the Gaza Strip as local communities attempt to regain their footing. These shockwaves impact access to basic necessities such as food and are amplified by overlapping challenges such as ongoing trade blockades, governance challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change impacts, leading to what the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) describes as a “chronic humanitarian crisis” that lies at the root of food insecurity for Palestinians.
A recent perspective by CCS’s Brigitte Hugh highlights the need for a systemic approach to food security in light of the global, interconnected impacts of climate change, conflict, and supply chain shocks. This follow-up analysis zooms in more closely to focus on food security in Palestine, which faces a challenging and entrenched nexus of risk.
The Roots of a Systemic Crisis
Of the estimated 5.3 million people living in the West Bank and Gaza, 1.8 million are in need of food assistance. During the height of the pandemic, this figure was as high as 2 million amidst widespread economic losses. The conditions are harshest in Gaza, where over 64% of the population is food insecure. At a time of lowered resilience due to COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine created a food systems shock that disrupted the supply chains for critical agricultural products as well as the global wheat trade. These disruptions have had measurable impacts on the West Bank and Gaza, where the price of wheat flour rose 30 and 36% respectively between mid-February and May 2022.
Increasing prices have led to growing concern and discontent in the Palestinian Territories. In the West Bank city of Hebron, crowds gathered in early June to protest rising food prices, urging the Palestinian Authority’s intervention to ensure the affordability of essential items. Eid celebrations in July were particularly challenging, with prices soaring for traditional foods ahead of the significant Muslim feast.
However, today’s food security challenges began long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and are due to a number of intersecting and systemic problems. In the Gaza Strip, any assurance of food security has been challenged by economic blockades imposed on the region for over a decade. The first blockade on Gaza had almost immediate economic and food security impacts. Just sixteen days after the blockade began in January 2006, A UN situation report described hundreds of tons of rotting produce unable to cross the border into Israel for export. These extended losses illustrated major economic blows to the agricultural sector in Gaza, weakening its resilience in future years. A later report from June described the dangerous depletion of food supplies between January and April 2006. It advised that prolonged open trade periods are essential for the food security of the local population.
Yet the restrictions continued and by 2010, a statement from the UN Humanitarian coordinator declared Gaza’s formal economy collapsed due to ongoing blockades, leading to food insecurity for over 60% of local households. Within the Gaza Strip, security measures have restricted farmers and fishers from accessing key agricultural land and fishing zones, paralleling conditions in the occupied West Bank where many farmers have been separated from their agricultural land by military checkpoints.
Poor governance and a lack of long-term planning have also impacted food security in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has failed to create a strategic food stockpile or grain storage mechanism that might boost its resilience to immediate shocks such as the war in Ukraine. These emergency mechanisms are especially critical given the current moment of economic fragility resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already increased the overall rate of food insecurity in Palestine over the past two years.
Climate change overlaps with each of these challenges, impacting agricultural productivity and further challenging food availability and affordability. Farmers in Gaza have expressed concerns about shifting rainfall patterns that have impacted regional crops such as olives and grapes. Farmers have traditionally anticipated the first rains in early October, yet they are now reporting the extension of the dry season for as long as two additional months. These shifts have affected the West Bank as well and made agriculture increasingly difficult in an already water-stressed region, and these disruptions are likely to continue into the future. Climate projections for the Mediterranean region predict increasing heatwaves and an overall drying trend; the most recent IPCC sixth assessment report predicts precipitation decreases of approximately 4% per 1°C global warming.
Water-related climate impacts are particularly risky for Palestinian farmers who face additional water insecurity due to restricted water access and periodic cut-offs by the military, illustrating a network of interconnected challenges. Since 1967, water resources in Palestine, including the Jordan River and the Mountain and Coastal aquifers, have been under the control of the Israeli military. Palestinians are prohibited from constructing and managing water installations without military permits. Due to these restrictions, the agricultural sector in Palestine remains highly dependent on Israel for water resources; in many cases, it is impossible for Palestinian farmers to become self-sufficient.
Further, the West Bank and Gaza rely on imports to meet 90% of their market needs, meaning that system shocks to agriculture and supply chains in other parts of the world have the potential to set off rippling threats in Palestine. In particular, Palestine relies heavily on Israeli imports, including food. According to the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, increased temperature and decreased precipitation due to climate change are expected to reduce crop quality and quantity and decrease livestock productivity. More than a future problem, the impacts of climate change on Israeli agriculture are already underway. Last year, the Insurance Fund for Natural Risks in Agriculture reported $96.5 million in damages to Israeli agriculture due to global warming. Ultimately, Palestine’s reliance on imported products means that climate-induced agricultural disruptions in Israel will lead to even greater challenges to putting food on the table for many Palestinian families.
Weeding Out the Roots of Food Insecurity
Given these systemic challenges that have created food insecurity in Gaza and the West Bank, the response requires a similarly systemic approach.
The United States is currently responding to the immediate impacts of the food security crisis. During his visit to the West Bank in July, President Biden announced an additional $15 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to Palestinians through the World Food Program and other NGOs. These investments are critical to meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable populations. However, ensuring long-term food security requires investments and interventions that address the systemic roots of food system fragility in addition to humanitarian aid that counters its immediate effects.
Changing the geopolitical environment that exacerbates food insecurity in Palestine is a key, overarching need. In parallel, one critical starting point at the local level is to improve climate education for farmers so that they can effectively plan for climate impacts and implement climate resilience strategies. The need for this kind of capacity development at the farmer level is acknowledged in Palestine’s National Adaptation Plan submitted to the UNFCCC in 2016. As climate-induced risks to Palestine’s food security continue to grow and interweave with other factors, such as restricted movement and trade, continued conflict, and supply chain disruptions, it is critical that communities on the ground are informed and empowered to take action to counter climate risks on their own terms.
Ultimately, diverse populations around the world face a similar food crisis, yet unique local conditions and systems inform the roots of the problem. As security threats increasingly become defined by systemic challenges such as climate change, these crises need to be analyzed and addressed as a web of complex risks. Implementing a cross-sectoral analysis of the problem and building partnerships across government and civil society to develop interventions are the first steps to pulling up the crisis by its roots.
To the UN Security Council: Connect Food Security with Climate Security
By Steve Brock and Deborah Loomis
The United States has made food security a key theme of its UN Security Council Presidency for the month of March, and today will chair a UNSC open debate on the links between conflict and food security. In many ways, the Council’s focus on food security is a closely-related continuation of the UK’s emphasis on climate security during its presidency last month. The World Climate and Security Report 2020 identified the deep linkages between climate change consequences and food insecurity across all regions of the globe.
According to the Global Report on Food Crises for 2020, over 135 million people faced acute food insecurity in 2019. The report characterized what it considered significant drivers of acute food insecurity as: conflict (affecting 77 million people in 22 countries), weather extremes (affecting some 34 million people in 25 countries), and economic shocks (affecting 24 million people in eight countries).(more…)