What is Climate Diplomacy?
Currently, we are paving the way to a much warmer world. Greenhouse gas emissions have already increased temperatures and are drying up water sources, raising sea levels, and threatening lives and livelihoods around the world. Extreme weather events – intense rain, dangerous storms, prolonged droughts, deadly heat waves, and uncontrollable wildfires – are becoming more frequent and more severe.
The challenges posed by the climate crisis are enormous. The repercussions not only threaten people’s livelihoods and impair development, but raise important geopolitical questions that touch upon the heart of international politics: sovereignty, territorial integrity, and access to resources such as water, food, and energy. The climate crisis has the potential to cause significant and highly uncertain impacts on societies, undermining human security and increasing the risks of conflict and instability. Addressing them requires a global-level strategic and coordinated response. This is where climate diplomacy comes in.
Climate diplomacy is, to a great extent, preventive diplomacy
Climate change is a destabilising factor that needs to be considered in efforts to build resilience, while promoting conflict-sensitive climate action contributes to stability. The climate crisis is a global issue touching upon diverse areas of international and foreign policy and climate diplomacy encompasses all diplomatic engagement relating to climate change.
DEFINING CLIMATE DIPLOMACY
There exists no universal definition of climate diplomacy.
The European Commission defines four strands of climate diplomacy at the political level:
- Committing to multilateralism in climate policy, particularly to the implementation of the Paris Agreement
- Addressing implications of climate change on peace and security
- Accelerating domestic action and raising global ambition
- Enhancing international climate cooperation though advocacy and outreach
In this sense, climate diplomacy encompasses the use of diplomatic tools to support the ambition and functioning of the international climate change regime and to attenuate the negative impacts climate change risks pose for peace, stability and prosperity. Furthermore, climate diplomacy entails using the issue of climate change for furthering other foreign policy objectives such as confidence- and peace-building or strengthening multilateralism. Climate diplomacy calls for preparing appropriate risk assessment and risk management strategies at a global strategic level.
Climate diplomacy also means prioritising climate action with partners worldwide – in diplomatic dialogues, public diplomacy and external policy instruments. This includes reaching out to partner countries bilaterally and making the case for more ambitious climate action.
By taking cross-cutting issues into account, climate diplomacy addresses the security and stability implications of climate change. Early action on the security risks of climate change requires a strong network of partners, including representatives from civil society and the private sector. International environmental and climate diplomacy, bilateral environmental cooperation, as well as environmental policy can promote dialogue and confidence-building, thereby contributing to regional stability.
Climate diplomacy in action
In a landmark joint report on climate change and international security, High Representative Javier Solana and the European Commission were the first to explicitly identify climate change as a "threat multiplier" for security and stability across the globe. It examined the impact of climate change on international security and considered the impact of these international security consequences for Europe’s own security, looking into how the EU should respond.
In 2011, the EU Council first adopted a Conclusion on Climate Diplomacy.
For the EU, climate diplomacy chiefly refers to actions undertaken by the European Commission, the EU Foreign Affairs Council and the European External Action Service (headed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) to shape international cooperation on climate change. A key area in the EU’s work on climate diplomacy relates to the security risks posed by climate change.
Under the German presidency in July 2011, the UN Security Council unanimously recognised that climate change threatens global peace and stability. The Council debate reflected the growing convergence of foreign, environmental, development and security policy areas.
The report “A New Climate for Peace,” commissioned by the G7 under the German Presidency in 2015, is the first landmark report to systematically identify compound climate-fragility risks which pose serious threats to the stability of states and societies in the decades ahead. It was the starting point for an entire G7 process of climate action, leading to numerous other outreach events and dialogues in the following years.
Explore the report's findings here.
On 26 February 2018, the European Union (EU) adopted Council Conclusions on Climate Diplomacy which were much more action-oriented than those adopted previously. They illustrate not only that the EU is stepping up its efforts to become a leading global actor when it comes to fulfilling the Paris Agreement, but also that the EU is now placing far greater emphasis on the need to address and mitigate security risks posed by climate change.
In 2020, the Council renewed the EU’s commitment to place climate action at the centre of external policy.
On 22 June 2018, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini hosted an unprecedented high-level event - Climate, Peace and Security: The Time for Action - which drove home both the urgency and importance of tackling the risks that climate change poses to security and peace. Ministers from around the world, top United Nations officials, and leading experts testified to the many real and potential security threats deriving from climate change.
The 2018 EU Report on Climate Diplomacy recognises climate change as a complex threat that should increasingly shape European foreign policy, and calls for greater parliamentary involvement. Stepped-up engagement of parliamentarians is indeed in the interest of climate diplomacy, and likewise, the drafting process contributes to a more participatory and inclusive approach.
Most recently, during a keynote debate under the German presidency in July 2020, Member States discussed progress towards a more systematic approach on the issue of climate-related security risks in a open video conference.
The activities build on the conviction that in order to further deepen the understanding of climate change and security and to gain support for preventive action, strong political commitment is required at the global, regional and national levels.
Different regions prioritise different aspects of climate diplomacy and view it from different angles. For this reason, the process initiated by the German Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with adelphi and its partners puts emphasis on holding discussions at the regional level. Geopolitical questions, livelihood and development issues, and a sustainable, green economy can play a key role, although their relevance and their ability to contribute to the solution vary according to the regional context. This approach demands thorough debates with regional organisations, civil society and expert communities from diverse regions through informal consultations, side-events at international conferences, workshops, briefings and various outreach activities. Partner institutions are engaged in the development of regional perspectives through statements, briefs, joint consultations and region-specific exhibitions on climate and security.