06 March 2017

The EU and climate security policy brief

The Planetary Security Initiative is proud to publish the first policy brief based on the outcomes of the Planetary Security Conference 2016. This brief concerns the EU (Working Group 9) and the importance of addressing climate security in its external activities.

Climate security is important for the EU due to the role of climate change as a stress factor in vulnerable countries, especially those in its vicinity. Climate change could potentially lead to an increase in conflicts and insecurity. As a response to these threats, climate security has been integrated into the 2016 EU Global Strategy and multiple other initiatives. The EU has taken concrete action on issues that are important for addressing climate security risks, such as food security, water security and disaster resilience. However, it has not always pursued these issues with “climate security” in mind. There is no overarching climate security strategy to help prioritise action in the face of climate risks, nor is there a formal cooperative process for EU institutions to work together. At present, there are still discrepancies amongst EU institutions and member states on how to frame “climate security”, which impacts how the issue is addressed in the EU’s external policy

To help address these challenges, the EU can make full use of the portion of its 2014-20 budget allocated for climate change-related action to shape appropriate responses to climate security risks. Effective prevention of climate-related security challenges will require the continued integration of climate security into existing early warning and conflict prevention mechanisms. These mechanisms need to be used effectively by development, diplomatic and security actors. In addition, the EU can pursue the construction of a robust "below 2C" climate diplomacy strategy and capacity, and expanded efforts to help both regional partners and international institutions such as the UN to respond systematically to climate risks. These actions are particularly important in light of the political and climate policy uncertainty in countries like the UK and the US that have been leaders on climate security issues.