Climate and security: new perspectives on addressing climate change

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The interactions and the implications linking climate and security issues were the focus of Angela Liberatore’s lecture at the first SISC Annual Conference in Lecce.
Angela Liberatore works at the Directorate General for Research of the European Commission, as Deputy Head of the Unit fostering international scientific cooperation in the European Neighbourhood, Africa and the Gulf, and in her plenary lecture “Climate Change and security: the Role of the European Union” talked about the arguments that underpinned the EU policy on climate change, its effort to foster multilateral climate protection and what it has meant for the EU to define climate change as a security issue.
In the management of uncertainty, science has a responsibility that can no longer neglect: the scientific knowledge is becoming more and more crucial to provide rigorous information and data not only among the scientific community, but also to decision makers both at national and international level.

It’s easy to regard climate change as a security issue: just think about conflicts over natural resources (for example, due to changes in rainfall patterns, water shortage, drop in agricultural land and productivity, etc); border disputes; environmentally induced-migration (due to further desertification, sea level rise, more extreme weather events); vulnerability of infrastructures, food scarcity and health diseases related to extreme events, and the fact will be evident to you. The risks posed by climate change are real and its impacts are already happening: just to make a couple of examples, the inhabitants of the Carteret Atoll (Papua New Guinea islands) have become the first climate refugees, while the nations bordering on the Jordan Basin, i.e. Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine have often been in conflict over the access to water.

Since the Toronto conference in 1988, when the issue of climate change became for the first time a policy issue, or since the UN Security Council in 2007, when we had the first debate on climate impacts, peace and security, many steps ahead were made.
At the moment the agenda in addressing climate change is dictated by the document “Climate Change and International Security”, a paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European Council.

So, how the EU is addressing climate change? The EU, Angela Liberatore points out, is facing climate change in many ways, with a multidisciplinary approach. First of all, it considers climate change a scientific topic while supporting and fostering research projects such as for example GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, now Copernicus ). Nevertheless, it looks also at climate change as a security issue relevant to economics and politics while promoting debates on human security, planning prevention, mitigation and adaptation strategies or supporting the issue of climate in international politics.
“To face the climate challenge”, she concluded, “civilian and military capabilities should be developed in such a way as to allow their deployment in response to natural disasters and climate-driven crises. Deviating climate policy from ‘civilian track’ is to devise wrong responses to problem: climate change can’t be tackled only from a military perspective; to solve climate change, we should also highly consider its economic, political, environmental and humanitarian implications. Nevertheless, we’ll need to involve new actors, including military, or ‘high politics’, in order to take climate change into consideration more seriously.

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