Questions and Answers on a new outlook on the climate and security nexus

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op woensdag 28 juni 2023.

Why do climate change and environmental degradation pose an increasing risk to international peace and security?

The challenges created by the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are already wide-ranging, affecting our societies and economy, and in particular the health, livelihoods, and well-being of people around the world.

For instance, higher temperatures and longer periods of drought limit our supply of fresh water, which can disrupt the irrigation of arable land and threaten food supplies. This, in turn, can exacerbate socio-economic tensions and trigger insecurity, even conflict, within and between states. In 2020, the UN found that 12 of the 20 countries most vulnerable to and least prepared for climate change were in conflict.

More frequent extreme weather events and climate-induced disasters are already displacing people, triggering migratory movements and causing humanitarian crises. This creates a breeding ground for smuggling and other forms of organised crime while outside powers or radical groups abuse these situations to disrupt. Environmental crime is now the third largest global crime sector, providing a major source of income for armed groups, organised crime outfits and corrupt officials. Since 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that an annual average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by weather-related events and these numbers are expected to increase.

Instability and insecurity of this kind in third countries can have various spill-over effects on the European Union. The security and defence implications of climate change and environmental degradation have now become more severe and complex, due to:

  • the reality of the climate crisis and environmental degradation today and further projections about how the scale and growing intensity of these crises will increasingly impact societies around the world
  • growing global competition for resources, technologies, and influence, particularly in the context of the energy transition and raw materials value chains
  • the urgent need to adapt armed forces to changing and challenging environments, to decarbonise their activities, and to reduce their fossil fuel dependency without compromising their operational effectiveness

What is the EU doing to prevent, manage and reduce such risks?

The EU addressed climate change as a threat-multiplier for the first time in its report on Climate change and international security in 2008. The 2020 Climate Change and Defence Roadmap and the 2021 Concept for Integrated Approach on Climate and Security set out the links between climate change and EU crisis management and European defence. The Strategic Compass also underlines the need to address the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on global and regional security, as well as on European armed forces and EU missions and operations. This Joint Communication is however the first comprehensive outlook on this nexus. The first line of defence against climate change and environmental degradation for the EU and its Member States is to continue to invest in both climate adaptation and mitigation, as well as in protecting and restoring the environment. Under the European Green Deal, the European Commission is taking robust legislative action to advance the green transition and prepare for the challenges of climate change in Europe and beyond.

Meanwhile, these crises already risk instability, insecurity, and conflict worldwide. To prevent, manage and reduce such risks, the European Commission and the High Representative are ensuring that external action, policies, and capabilities are fit for the future and strengthening the linkages between key policy strands. The EU will adopt a more proactive and comprehensive response to the multifaceted security challenges created by climate change, while seeking further close cooperation with its international partners and stakeholders to promote multilateral solutions.

Concretely, this Joint Communication identifies around 30 actions to:

  • strengthen climate-informed planning, decision-making and implementation, through reliable and accessible evidence-based analysis on the climate and security nexus;
  • operationalise the climate-security nexus across EU external action, including crisis management;
  • enhance the climate adaptation and mitigation measures of Member States' security and defence forces in their operations and infrastructure;
  • set up new formats of cooperation and dialogue with close international partners such as the UN and NATO.

What tools and instruments can the EU use to operationalise the climate and security nexus?

There are various existing EU initiatives - ranging from climate mitigation and adaptation measures to conflict prevention, crisis management and humanitarian action - that already respond to security risks created by climate change and environmental degradation. This new outlook builds on them and strings the different workstreams better together.

The EU will seek the latest science and insights and embed securely climate and environmental considerations into its EU peacebuilding, stabilisation, humanitarian action, crisis management and post-conflict recovery.

Climate and environment-related policies and practices will be developed with a sensitivity to their interactions with peace and security, in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal.

How is the EU helping Member States' efforts to prepare the armed forces for climate change and ensure operational effectiveness?

EU Member States have already embarked on addressing climate and energy-related challenges faced by the armed forces.

For instance, there are different projects underway to develop energy efficiency solutions for the military. The European Defence Agency data shows that there was an overall energy efficiency gain of approximately 33% between 2016-2020.

As part of the actions agreed under the Strategic Compass, Member States are currently developing and implementing national strategies to prepare the armed forces for climate change. Building on these national strategies, the EU will ramp up cooperation between Member States to reduce the risk of fragmentation and ensure interoperability among the EU's armed forces while creating economies of scale, for instance with the development of standards for sustainable fuels.

Enhancing climate adaptation and mitigation efforts of the military can help preserve and potentially enhance operational performance. The European Commission and the High Representative aim to support Member States improve energy efficiency and sustainability. Doing so will cut their carbon footprints, reduce costs and reliance on fossil fuel, lighten the logistical burden, and advance self-sustainability in the operational context, building the safety and freedom of movement of the armed forces.

In addition, next generation military equipment needs to be able to operate under challenging climate conditions; armed forces need to adapt to those harsher conditions and be trained and equipped for more frequent military assistance to civilian authorities in response to natural disasters; and military infrastructure needs to become more climate resilient using cleaner technologies.

With this in mind, relevant European Commission services, the European External Action Service (EEAS), and the European Defence Agency (EDA) will set up a new Climate and Defence Support Mechanism to work with Member States to identify such gaps, barriers, and collaborative solutions. In this context, as part of a phased approach, the European Commission and High Representative, in close consultation with the EDA, will also consider the establishment of a dedicated EU-led Competence Centre on Climate Change, Security and Defence.

Moreover, profiles of environmental advisors and related training needs will be developed in view of ensuring the deployment of environmental advisors in all our EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, as called for in the Strategic Compass.

How will the EU enhance partnerships with international organisations?

The EU will continue to increase its engagement with international and regional organisations and third countries, at both political and operational levels.

The EU leads and participates in many global initiatives on the interlinked topics of water and food security, oceans, clean energy transition and raw materials value chains all of which are highly relevant for the climate and security nexus.

The EU will use all channels and existing dialogues at bilateral level and with international organisations and the G7 and G20, to address climate change, environmental degradation, and security.

The EU already has several dialogues and partnerships on climate and security with the UN and its agencies. The EU-UN strategic partnership on peace operations and crisis management for 2022-2024 already reflects the climate and security nexus as one of the key priorities.

The EU will continue these efforts and intensify exchanges, such as with the UN Climate Security Mechanism, or cooperation on the ground through the EU Delegations or EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations with the UN peace operations.

The Joint Declaration on EU-NATO cooperation of January 2023 stressed the need for both bodies to tackle the security implications of climate change together. Both organisations have made substantive progress and will now exchange more regularly and in a more structured way, with a focus on concrete, tangible results. The EU will explore the possibility of establishing a structured dialogue with NATO.

How can the EU shape its energy transition without creating new dependencies or undermining its security?

The clean energy transition is the only way to simultaneously ensure sustainable, secure, and affordable energy worldwide. To decarbonise our energy system and ensure a successful large-scale deployment of renewables, we need secure, resilient, and sustainable supply chains for manufacturing clean energy technologies. Many of the supply chains for renewable energies and zero-emission mobility depend on minerals and materials and components derived from them.

As a result, energy security considerations will increasingly be about access to those resources and technologies. We are experiencing a global race for the supply and recycling of critical raw materials.

In such a competitive geopolitical environment, the EU is seeking to secure sustainable and stable supplies, boost its strategic autonomy and decrease dependency on imports. These are the main objectives of the Critical Raw Materials Act, which the European Commission proposed on 16 March 2023.

What does the European Commission propose regarding geo-engineering?

The European Commission does not consider geoengineering to be the solution to climate change, as it does not address the root cause of the problem: the increase global greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The only way to halt global warming and lessen the impacts of climate change is by bringing those emissions to net-zero.

In the current state of development, a deliberate intervention in the Earth's natural systems, such as a solar radiation modification (SRM) deployment, represents an unacceptable level of risk for humans and the environment.

There is no clear scientific knowledge on the impact and consequences such actions will entail, and no appropriate rules are developed in this regard so far. A comprehensive scientific review process that is inclusive and globally representative is essential.

As a precaution, the European Commission and the High Representative will support international efforts to comprehensively assess the risks and uncertainties of such climate interventions and promote discussions on a potential international framework for their governance, including research into related aspects.

Only ambitious climate change mitigation measures together with climate change adaptation will allow us to fulfil the Paris Agreement objectives. The EU is taking decisive action with the Fit for 55 package of proposals to achieve at least 55% net emission reductions by 2030, its long-term binding commitment to become climate neutrality by 2050 and adapting to the impact of climate change, as set out in the EU Adaptation Strategy.

For More Information

Press release


Joint Communication