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From analysis to action - high profile experts launch declaration on climate and security

Press conference at the Planetary Security Conference 2017

In December, the leading lights of the climate and security community launched an unprecedented declaration to catalyse action in the field in front of 350 participants at the Planetary Security Conference.

The Hague Declaration has been signed at this point by 99 representatives from UN agencies, government, the diplomatic corps, academia, and think tanks (as of 20 January 2018). They include the 26th Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, Kevin Rudd, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Halbe Zijlstra, the Iraqi Minister for Water Hassan Janabi, to European Climate Foundation Chief Executive Laurence Tubiana, the UNCCD chief Monique Barbut, and the former UNFCCC executive secretary and current convenor of Mission2020 Christiana Figueres.

The Declaration provides a six point plan

"This Declaration takes what we've learnt about climate-related risks being a key factor – and at times a key driver – of human insecurity and conflict and turns it into a practical plan of action," Hassan Janabi, the Iraqi Water Minister said. "And not a moment too soon – the changing climate is already making many of the complex crises the world currently faces – from migration to conflict, resource shortages to terrorism – much harder to solve as I've seen first hand in the face of dwindling water resources in Iraq."

The Declaration is a six point plan covering a call for a UN envoy to be appointed and a process for developing a climate security risk assessment as well as concrete actions in some of the most vulnerable countries including Mali and Iraq. It seeks to move the community of practice that has built up around the issue from knowledge into action.

Monika Sie Dhian Ho, Director of the Clingendael Institute said: "The impact of climate-related insecurity has the potential to dwarf the political unrest seen in Europe by the migration crisis. It is therefore a good thing that so many organisations have already endorsed the call for action embodied in the Hague Declaration on Planetary Security. We hereby invite everyone who has concerns on this topic to endorse the online declaration."

Everyone needs to work together to deal and manage threats before they arise

The Declaration, marks the first time there has been such broad support for a programme of action on climate security, will now be opened broadly for signature following a significant year for climate security in which there was an Australian Senate Enquiry into the issue, the launch of the EU’s new strategy for promoting resilience, and the Lake Chad UN Security Council resolution and subsequently announced comprehensive risk assessment.

At the heart of the plan is the need for everyone to work together to deal and manage threats before they arise – whether they be migration, displacement, assessing climate security risks and ensuring development is sensitive to the changing climate. Ongoing and new support programmes in the field of humanitarian aid, migration, security, as well as early warning and military missions, need to take better account of climate risks.

“The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security shows the commitment of a growing community of practice to recognize the geopolitical implications of global environmental change and need to systematically address the compound risks around climate change,“ said Alexander Carius, the managing director of adelphi, a Berlin based think tank and one of the conference organisers.  

The declaration will guide the community's work going forward

“The USGCRP Climate Science Special Report underscores that climate change is a threat multiplier for global instability by stating clearly that we are now living in the warmest period in the history of modern civilization. Climate change is  one of the most fundamental global security challenges we face in the 21st century which is why this call to action is so timely,” said Sherri Goodman, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security).

The declaration will guide the community's work going forward. Through the Planetary Security Initiative, the signatories will endeavour to encourage linkages and partnership on related initiatives, offer stewardship where required, and capture progress so everyone can see how they are doing.

Kevin Rudd said: "Climate change is one of the great geopolitical risks of this century. This Declaration captures many of the ideas long called for by those passionate about the nexus between climate and security, especially the island nations of the Pacific which are on the frontline of this battle. It is important the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council are able to take these ideas forward in the coming months."

New report: Action on Climate and Security Risks

In the run-up to the Planetary Security Conference the report Action on Climate and Security Risks – Review of Progress 2017 had been published. This report by the Planetary Security Initiative looks at progress made on policy and practical responses to climate-security risks for 2016-2017. Using the independent G7 commissioned report A New Climate for Peace as a basis, and building on last year’s report, Towards A Global Resilience Agenda, this year’s report sets out the key achievements, pitfalls and new challenges facing the foreign policy community working to reduce climate-fragility risks. 

The scan of the 2017 horizon shows that climate fragility risks persist and are worsening. The world is facing more climatic extremes, a greater number of increasingly internationalised conflicts, the highest levels of hunger and displacement since World War Two, and an increasingly volatile geopolitical landscape. A review of progress presents a mixed bag but, on balance, offers more grounds for optimism than for pessimism.