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Climate-driven crises set to influence EU security policy? Report says yes.


BRUSSELS – Climate-change events know no boundaries of course, but the implications for EU policy still remain to be addressed. However, some EU officials now insist that strategic and operational planning for climate-driven conflicts and disasters should be firmly embedded in the union’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

In a draft report presented here in late June, Indrek Tarand, Estonian member of the European Parliament (MEP) says the negative consequences of climate change on peace, security and stability should be reflected in all strategic CSDP documents and included in the criteria that guide the planning and conduct of the EU’s security missions. Though an own-initiative report, his document is among the first EU papers to broach this linkage.

The report discusses the potentially destabilising effects of climate-driven crises in third countries on the EU’s internal security, stressing the importance for the union to adapt its long-term planning of civil and military capabilities to tackle them. It recommends that relevant EU bodies – i.e., Council and the European External Action Service (EEAS) – define a specific list of military and civilian capabilities needed to respond to climate-change events and natural disasters. This should include:

  • * air and sea transport assets
    * mobile hospitals, including intensive care units
    * communications infrastructure
    * water purification equipment and systems
    * engineering capacities
  • Moreover, the report considers that the Council and European Defence Agency (EDA) should align the EU’s current “catalogues” of civilian and military assets and capabilities to meet the challenges of climate change, and make the necessary proposals to remedy any existing deficiencies in the catalogues. This should be done as part of a review in 2013 of the capabilities that need developing, according to Tarand, who advocates that the agency coordinate closely with the EU Military Committee to ensure that procurement plans and capability development programmes are backed by enough money to respond to climate change crises. Indeed, his report says there should be a “mainstreaming of climate security” through all the EU’s financial instruments for external assistance.

    Elsewhere, the Tarand report urges the creation of a formal working group within Council to analyse climate change as a security threat and the appointment of climate experts in all relevant EEAS components and notably its Situation Centre, given the latter’s critical role in risk analysis and early warning. New channels of communication should be established between the EEAS and the Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG ECHO). Finally, he recommends creating a “special envoy for climate security”, to be appointed by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top CFSP official.

    Bulgarian MEP Nadezhda Neynsky said existing policies and institutional arrangements should be strengthened rather that creating new ones, although she also called for enhancing the skills of current staff. The EU’s humanitarian aid should not be displaced but complemented by CFSP, she argued. Cypriot MEP Kyriakos Mavronikolas insisted that a comprehensive approach to climate security could not be developed without close civil-military cooperation and dual-use capabilities, adding that rapidly deployable and robust forces could be used for law enforcement tasks under military command.

    Other EP members remain sceptical about the report’s chances of being approved in its current form by the wider Parliament. Romania’s Norica Nicolai, vice-chair of the subcommittee, called for “a more realistic” approach and warned that the report could easily become politicised – “something to be avoided by all means”, she observed.

    Finally German MEP Michael Gahler noted that some of the “novelties” proposed by the report are already in place. While there is no European climate security policy per se, he reminded the meeting that many aspects pertaining to such a policy “are already being pursued as part of existing instruments or institutional arrangements”.

    Tarand’s report goes before the plenary session of Parliament for a vote towards the end of October.

         THE UPSHOT: More extreme weather events may lead to higher demand for the EU to provide humanitarian aid or civil-military cooperation for disaster relief operations in third states. This does point to the need for more detailed analysis of the regional security implications of climate change.
    It would not be a bad idea for the EU to support pilot “early warning” reviews of countries or regions susceptible to climate change effects that lead to real security risks. Such reviews could be carried out with a view to developing mitigation strategies linked to the EU’s wide range of disaster response/humanitarian aid policies. This could be coupled with preventive action for adapting to climate change by using the EU’s cooperative partnerships with vulnerable countries or regions, for example.

    About Ramona Kundt

    Ramona Kundt was deputy editor at SECURITY EUROPE from 2008-2012.

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