Climate Security and Resilience at COP22: Discussing the Implications for Africa

COP22 Blue Zone 2016

After the landmark Paris Agreement, this year’s climate conference in Marrakech was all about action – dubbed the “implementation conference”. Many initiatives announced in Marrakech, such as the commitment of 45 vulnerable countries to generate energy solely from renewable sources, fostered a shared sense that sustainable transformation has become the ‘new normal’. Another recurring message was that preventive, forward-looking climate policy and integrated approaches to resilience building were needed, especially in fragile countries. The implications of climate-fragility risks now need to be broken-down and addressed in local and regional contexts.

Possible pathways forward took centre stage at two side events at COP22 which discussed the following key questions: How to deal with the impact of climate change on peace and stability? What are key climate-fragility risks to development in Africa and how can integrated policy responses be designed and implemented? The side events brought together policy-makers and experts to discuss relevant programmes and policies to strengthen resilience related to climate change and security. A particular focus was put on the African continent and how initiatives there can address climate-fragility risks on the ground.

The G7 push for addressing climate-fragility risks

At the global level, the work of the G7 was the starting point for these discussions. The G7 foreign ministers last year received the independent study “A New Climate for Peace” that identifies compound climate-fragility risks which pose serious threats to state stability and possible ways to address them. The Ministers started numerous outreach events and established a working group to facilitate the implementation of the report’s recommendations. Notable points where more progress is required, include (1) domestic integration and mainstreaming climate risks into foreign policy, defense policy and others, (2) shaping partnerships for local resilience and, being particularly cumbersome, (3) aligning efforts by linking adaptation, humanitarian aid and peacebuilding with resilience building approaches.  In order to translate such challenges and opportunities into action are inter alia discussed at the Planetary Security Initiative, an annual conference which aims to enhance political awareness and involvement on the climate-security interface and facilitate cooperation between a multi-sector group of stakeholders.

The European Union and the African Union move to more strategic consideration of climate-fragility risks

The recently released EU Global Strategy recognizes the strategic importance of climate change as a root cause of conflict and a “threat multiplier that catalyses water and food scarcity, pandemics and displacement”, and calls for pre-emptive peacebuilding and diplomacy, and for enhancing energy and environmental resilience. Indeed, this is an important step to help ensure that external climate action is more effective and coherent.

In light of first visible climate change impacts, ranging from food insecurity and droughts to land degradation and deforestation, African institutions, regional and continental, can strategically address climate-fragility risk in their work. In April this year, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union dedicated an open session to climate change, state fragility, peace and security in Africa. Participants stressed the need to mainstream climate change considerations into their national development agendas and the important role of early warning centres of the regional economic communities (RECs) and regional mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution in building national early warning capacities on potential climate change-related conflicts.

Working towards resilience in Africa

Across most of the African continent, livelihoods are heavily dependent on agricultural activities, a sector where pressures are particularly pronounced. Dynamic demographic growth, the dependence of over 80% of the people on natural resources for their subsistence, more industrial activities in forest areas, and the hazards caused by climate change are all factors threatening the region’s stability, thus making it more vulnerable to climate change risks. Hence, initiatives starting at the foundation of the people’s livelihoods, such as sustainable land and water management (SLWM), are key to ensuring climate-resilient development and food and income security. Several programmes at the regional and continental level could provide possible entry points.

For instance, institutional support to New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has among its aims to provide a best practice guide and to establish a knowledge platform on SLWM. RECs such as ECCAS, the Economic Community of Central African States, are entry points for developing integrated responses for Sustainable Land Management Scale-up in Sub-Saharan Africa. ECCAS supports the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative AFR100 that is currently piloted in four Central African countries and implemented on a national level.

The African Risk Capacity (ARC) helps Member States improve their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, therefore protecting food security. By merging traditional approaches of disaster relief and quantification with concepts of risk pooling and risk transfer, ARC contributes to creating a sustainable African-led strategy for managing extreme climate risks. ARC brings together three critical elements: (1) early warning, (2) response – through contingency planning – and (3) insurance (index-based insurance and risk pooling). It is an example of how cooperation can mitigate the fallout of climate-fragility risks, and foreign policy-makers should work on integrating these aspects. ARC thereby helps shorten emergency response times and reduces costly delays in responses after disasters. During the German Presidency, the G7 committed to supporting such insurance schemes in order to lift 400 million people out of food insecurity.

Lake Chad: a case in point

Since the 1960s, Lake Chad has shrunk significantly, placing the water-dependent livelihoods of roughly 21 million inhabitants in the region in jeopardy. 9 million of these people are heavily dependent on humanitarian aid and conflict has internally displaced or made refugees of an additional 2.4 million more.  30,000 people have been killed by terrorist activities. In order to create or usher in a lasting impact, possible entry points for cooperation include strengthening the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Joint Task Force of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. A move such as this would assist in mitigating issues endemic within the region: mediate between different groups, stabilize livelihoods also providing alternative sources of income, and preventing crime and violence.

The role of climate diplomacy

Diplomacy needs to make these questions a political priority. As examples such as Lake Chad illustrate, resilience approaches which consider the full conflict cycle, anticipate security risks and address conflicts before they escalate are urgently required. Climate diplomacy needs to shape processes in multilateral fora and organizations in a way that prioritizes the strategic threats posed by climate change. It is therefore promising, in this context, that Germany intends to use its G20 Presidency for this purpose - discussing climate, water and Africa in the context of the 2030 SDGs at the G20 foreign ministers meeting on 16-17 February 2017.