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The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent: A Climate Security Governance Framework for the 21st Century


The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent: A Climate Security Governance Framework for the 21st Century

Authors: Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia

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Executive Summary

Given the rapid rate of climate change and its likely implications for global security (hereafter referred to as “climate security”), the current world order will have to adapt – and adapt quickly. The difference between today and major global disruptions of the past is that though the risks are unprecedented, our foresight is unprecedented as well. Technological developments have given us climate models and predictive tools that enhance our ability to anticipate and mitigate complex risks.

This combination of unprecedented risks and unprecedented foresight lays the foundation for a Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent (R2P2) – a framework for managing climate security risks. The framework is concerned with what we know about climate security risks, what gaps exist in governing these risks, and how to close this global governance gap. The main climate security governance gaps identified in this paper are:

  • Gap 1: The Right Information. There is currently no standardized global hub for climate security information to inform coherent international policy actions to address climate security risks, and a lack of accepted future projections in a field dominated by forensic analysis.
  • Gap 2: The Right People. Addressing climate security risks is hampered by a gap between climate change messengers and the security audiences needed to take actions to address climate security risks, as well as a lack of institutionalized leadership on the issue within the global security community.
  • Gap 3: The Right Time. There are currently no global governance mechanisms for aligning international climate policy actions with international actions to address climate security risks.

To fill the global governance gaps, this paper proposes the establishment of an international R2P2 Climate Security Governance Framework made up of three institutional principles:

  • Principle 1: Assessment & Anticipation. Standardized, aggregated and credible global climate security assessments, including climate security futures, aimed at aiding coherent international action. This should start with the establishment of an International Climate Security Assessment Panel (ICSAP) to oversee a regular climate security assessment report.
  • Principle 2: Elevation & Translation. Leadership by senior, globally-respected security practitioners who translate climate security information for global security decision-makers, and issue regular recommendations for international action. This should start with the appointment of a UN Permanent Representative for Climate and Security to lead a new Climate Security Center (CSC) to fulfill this goal.
  • Principle 3: Coordination & Alignment. International climate security coordination mechanisms for aligning the policy windows of international climate change policy with international security policy as they relate to climate security risks. This should begin with the establishment of an intergovernmental “Climate Security Coordination Mechanism (CSCM)” at the UN level to drive this coordination.

R2P2 builds from the Responsibility to Prepare Framework published in August 2017, a speech to the United Nations Security Council presenting that framework, and a forthcoming book on the subject. As a core part of its mission of anticipating, analyzing and addressing core systemic risks to security in the 21st century, the Council on Strategic Risks and its Center for Climate and Security is working to better understand what we know and what steps should be taken to absorb or lessen the security risks of climate change. This report, made possible by the generous support of the Global Challenges Foundation, contributes to that task.

Read the report: Here

Direct inquiries to
: Francesco Femia, ffemia at climateandsecurity dot org