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The EU Global Strategy: Mainstreaming Climate Considerations Into Foreign and Security Policy

The Global Strategy “sets out the EU's core interests and principles for engaging in the world” and aims very much at providing a holistic (“global”) approach. A comprehensive outreach and consultation process provided input, conducted by the EU Institute for Security Studies (EU ISS) in cooperation with the EEAS. For climate diplomacy, this drew most notably on a conference which took place earlier this year to discuss strategic needs in light of the Paris Agreement.

EU climate diplomacy has made significant progress in recent years, built on three strategic strands, one of these strands explicitly centered on the security impacts of climate change. EU climate diplomacy has facilitated the break-through needed to secure agreement in Paris and has also improved the way it involves and coordinates with delegations and Member States’ foreign services, not least through the Green Diplomacy Network.

It is now timely that the EU broadens its climate diplomacy approach, integrating it into its overall foreign and security policy thinking. It could have even gone a step further, dedicating a section specifically to climate-related challenges and emerging threats, as it did for energy security, for example.

Nevertheless, the new document 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. For the latter, it also highlights the transition risks that could fuel social tensions and need to be addressed – e.g. in fossil fuel reliant economies.

It is also encouraging to see that the Strategy includes aims to “increase climate financing, drive climate mainstreaming in multilateral fora, raise the ambition for review foreseen in the Paris agreement, and work for clean energy cost reductions” (for the latter, one step was joining Mission Innovation). Each of these goals requires the continued work of diplomats.

Last but not least, the Strategy reconfirms, but broadens the EU’s approach with respect to ‘effective multilateralism’. To a certain extent, with the success of the Paris Agreement, climate diplomacy exemplifies that multilateralism can still be effective, but in the face of evolving geopolitical realities, bilateral partnerships with key countries will gain increasing importance. This was already an instrumental element of building support in advance of the Agreement, but it will be important to systematically scrutinize and evaluate opportunities arising for climate diplomacy.

Policy-makers and diplomats of the EEAS and foreign services of the Member States’ are now tasked with putting this shared vision into practice, and, furthermore, mainstreaming climate diplomacy into concrete action. A potential first step could be joint discussions and briefings with diplomats working, for instance, on energy, economic cooperation, and security policy, and the relevance of these sectoral areas for climate diplomacy.