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Sustainability, stability, security: Why it is vital for global security and stability to tackle climate change and invest in sustainability

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Executive Summary

For several years now researchers and organizations the world over have analyzed the relationship between foreseeable climate change impacts and the geostrategic issues they raise. At the 1992 Earth Summit 178 governments signed the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Principle 25 of which states that “peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.” Later on in the 90s, the US military took up the issue of climate change, and just a few years later, in 2003 the Pentagon confirmed the existence of a link between national security and climate change, which it described as a “threat multiplier.” In a world in which security is of ever-greater importance, all parameters must be taken into account to analyze problems and come up with the most effective responses. The first requirement is to recognize that climate change and the risks it poses are a threat to stability and security. An environmentally unsustainable system produces instability, which inevitably leads to insecurity.

This problem concerns all areas of the world, though naturally some are more vulnerable than others. For example, certain parts of Africa and Asia are already suffering from the effects of weather events, and several current conflicts have discernible environmental roots. The most notorious example is the war in the Darfur region of Sudan. As United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon wrote in 2007, “amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.” The growing number of areas destabilized by climate change makes it imperative for governmental and nongovernmental organizations to meet the challenge head on, and begin to find solutions.

The present report, — “Sustainability, Stability, Security” — is an analysis of concrete situations based on existing sources. Drawing on the most recent IPCC report on climate change, it highlights the many consequences of climate change: rising sea levels, extreme weather events, water stress, land degradation and desertification, increased competition for resources, health hazards, and increased migrations. These hazards have historically destabilized entire regions, and will in the future continue to weaken the most vulnerable areas of the globe.

Climate change and security concerns are increasingly interlinked, and demand that appropriate policy responses and frameworks be adopted. Too often seen as a purely environmental issue, climate change tends to be filed away in the category of environmental risks. This report demonstrates that it is a global problem that impacts not only the environment but also the economy, the institutions, and society as a whole.

It is therefore time to rethink security in a world in which climate change is a fact of life.
This is the true meaning of the Sustainability-Stability-Security doctrine at the heart of this report.
Several States and international organizations (UN, NATO, G7, EU, etc.) recognizing the connection, have published and are continuing to publish scientific studies on the subject.

Think tanks, researchers and specialists are working to build expertise among concerned parties and find solutions going forward. This is the goal of the PSI (Planetary Security Initiative), a consortium of think tanks launched in 2015 to enhance awareness of the problems by the players involved and increase cooperation between policymakers and experts.

States and international organizations must act now to develop appropriate responses, first and foremost by complying with and implementing two historic 2015 plans: the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in New York and structured around Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). By “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C” (Paris Agreement, 2015) and meeting the seventeen goals for sustainable development, we can considerably diminish the risk of insecurity and conflict worldwide.
Since climate change is already happening and mitigation policies, no matter how crucial, are insufficient, it is important to take the coming effects of climate change into consideration, and help people adapt to them. In this context, and given the information presented above, only integrated responses make sense. Internationally, States and supranational institutions need to integrate climate/security thinking into diplomatic strategies, and promote adaptation and resilience.

According to a recent UN Environment Program report the true cost of adapting to climate change in developing nations could range between $140 to $300 billion per year in 2030, and between $280 and $500 billion per year in 2050. And yet, international funding for climate change adaptation in developing countries reached $22.5 billion in 2014, that is to say 1.38 percent of worldwide military spending that year. By under-investing in adaptation to climate change in developing countries, international policymakers betray a lack of awareness of the relationship between sustainability, stability, and security. And yet, investment is necessary for the stability of our planet.

WWF France is committed to a world in which humanity lives in harmony with nature, which is why it has decided to tackle the problem head on and present a new doctrine to policymakers active in the fields of security, diplomacy, geopolitics, development, and environmental protection. Without overlooking the political, ethnic, religious, social, and economic sources of conflicts, we believe one should — when possible and when it makes sense — identify environmental degradation and poor access to natural resources (arable land, water, livestock feed) as part of the underlying causes of an ever-worsening situation. That is why raising awareness among those tasked with improving global security is of utmost importance.