Climate Change and Planetary Security


On 2 and 3 November 2015, experts of the Hague Centre of Strategic Studies attended in the international conference on “Planetary Security: Peace and Cooperation in Times of Climate Change and Global Environmental Challenges” at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands organized this Planetary Security Initiative. The Netherlands aims to facilitate events on an annual basis and like to provide a regular time and place where experts, organizations, and decision makers could assemble, share, connect and strengthen their parts of the new strategies needed for the future of planetary security.

Countries have recognized that climate change presents an ever growing threat to development, poverty eradication efforts, security and the welfare of their citizens. The impact of climate change is already being felt on every continent. Political and military leaders around the world are now calling climate change the most serious threat to national security in the 21st century. Climate change has been called "perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction". Experts and leaders everywhere agree that climate change has a multiplier effect increasing the impact of other existing threats.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to increase and on the present path, global temperature rise will far exceed the goal to limit of two degrees Celsius that countries have agreed upon to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the Climate Summit in September 2014. This Summit was attended by representatives of governments, business and civil society, resulting in a series of climate initiatives. In December 2014, in Lima, Peru, countries moved to advance the negotiations further under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. At present, countries are discussing the legal nature of the agreement, the nature of the responsibilities and actions that each country will undertake, and mechanisms to review progress and to scale up action in the years ahead.

The upcoming Climate Summit “Paris 2015 Conference” will address the causes of climate change. This conference should result in the adoption of an international agreement, setting the framework for a transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. The conference has the potential to mark a decisive step forward in the negotiation of the future international agreement that will enter into force in 2020, with the aim that all countries, including the greatest greenhouse gas emitters should be bound by a universal climate agreement.

Planetary Security Initiative and Conference

In contrast with the upcoming Paris Climate Summit, the Planetary Security Initiative and conference focuses on the consequences and effects of climate change. The conference provides an international platform for high level policy makers and experts working on the threats posed to security, stability and development by climate change, environmental degradation and resource scarcity. The aim of the conference is to enhance knowledge sharing and international cooperation amongst leading decision makers, academics, think tanks and security organizations. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, stated the following in his opening speech at the conference: "I expect this Planetary Security Conference will provide the strategic review with valuable insights. Climate fragility needs to be a central foreign policy priority. The new climate perspective in diplomacy also implies new coalitions. Good research does not magically become good policy or good practice. Too often, policymakers miss out on insights from the academic world. And too often, researchers find it hard to explain what their work implies in terms of concrete action. The Planetary Security Conference brings together thinkers and doers. It provides an annual platform for better cooperation and action between politicians, policymakers, academics, think tanks, security organizations, the private sector, civil society and the media. You are all pioneers, and we need you. This conference offers you the chance to compare agendas. It gives you the opportunity to develop planned or ongoing research. It enables you to discuss new policies and initiatives. And it allows you to expand your networks and outreach. In short, it will help all of us to move from knowledge to action."

Working group

The conference facilitated several working groups. These working groups discussed and elaborated on the challenges, responses and recommendations of several issues:

  • analysis of Syria and the links with between climate change, natural resource mismanagement and state fragility;
  • Africa with the focus on the Sahel;
  • climate change and its effects on sea level rises (effects on small island developing states (SIDS) and water related climate impacts on the Urban Deltas);
  • the effects of climate change on our planetary system, the “Anthropocene”;
  • security and climate change in the Arabian Peninsula;
  • Arctic security and conflicting interest;
  • climate-smart agriculture and sustainable food security;
  • water diplomacy for peaceful climate adaption;
  • displacement and environmental migration;
  • risk assessment and risk management; and
  • a plausible picture of the world in 2050.

From knowledge to action

The Planetary Security Initiative could foster greater political awareness and stimulate the involvement of a wider community of actors in the discussion and action on climate change and security. The conference could also promote increased interaction between related initiatives and processes addressing the planetary security risks caused by climate change, environmental degradation and help shape the needed policies for the decades to come. New about this conference is that is not just an intellectual exercise; it also proposes new initiatives for action. While the annual conference could be seen as a new institution, its main aim is to help the existing foreign policy and security architecture to come to integrated solutions required by the new eco-geopolitical landscape. Conferences like this could help stimulate engagement by an ever larger community of committed citizens leading to new ways of protecting our planet. Research, of course, has to lead to action. This conference could help build the bridge between the intellectual and the practical through the action-oriented strategies that have been developed.

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