Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Preparing for possible climate change conflicts

Heres an interesting piece worth a look at – a report by the EU’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana and the EU’s External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, on climate change and international security.

The report was adopted by EU leaders at the Spring European Council last month and discussed again this week in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. An energy security strategy is the third part of the EU’s emerging energy policy following the publication of the Commission’s green energy plans and its internal energy market package.

Solana basically makes the point that climate change is already having a profound impact on international security. While mitigation and adaptation efforts are important he warns against three key international security threats in particular that the EU and the wider international community need to be prepared for:

  1. reduction of arable land, widespread water shortages, diminishing food and fish stocks, increased flooding and droughts will lead to conflicts between states over dwindling global resources.
  2. rising sea levels in coastal regions and islands will not only cause economic damage but there is also the issue of loss of territories and border disputes and its implications for oil, gas and fishing resources if territories or borders change, or are submerged under the sea. We are already seeing the effects of competition for greater access to, and control over, energy resources with the rapid melting of the Arctic ice caps and the race to the North Pole, where it is estimated that there is some 25% of the world’s gas and oil reserves untapped in the Arctic Ocean. Last August the Russians sent a submarine to the North Pole to plant a flag in its seabed, claiming this territory and its resources as its but Canada, Denmark and Norway are also trying to establish their claims. Writing in this month’s Foreign Affairs, Scott Borgerson argues that unless Washington leads the way toward a multilateral diplomatic solution, the Arctic could descend into armed conflict.
  3. As a direct consequence there is the possibility of millions of “environmental” migrants or refugees by 2020 fleeing the effects of climate change.

Solana warns that the multilateral system is at risk if the international community fails to address these threats, with greater divisions and resentment likely between North-South and South-South (China, India), between the major emitters and those who are affected by it the most.

The report underlines the need for greater “carbon diplomacy”, to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on security and reinforce the capacities of those countries most likely to be severely affected, not least from Africa to the Middle East, from Latin America to central and southern Asia. Other recommendations include greater EU disaster response and conflict prevention capabilities, boosting cooperation and political dialogue with non-EU countries and interestingly develop and EU Arctic Policy. So now we know.

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