Oct 28 2009
What the Security Community needs from Copenhagen: Washington Roundtable
By Nick Mabey and Katherine Silverthorne
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On October 22nd, E3G convened a roundtable discussion in Washington entitled ‘What the Security Community needs from Copenhagen’. This was the 3rd in the series of workshops involving security and climate experts from the U.S. and Europe to explore how to construct a systematic risk management approach to climate change.
The UNFCCC’s December meeting in Copenhagen must deliver the foundations of an effective, predictable and institutionally robust climate protection regime in order to preserving security and stability at current levels.
The UN treaty represents an indispensable component of an effective global climate control regime. However, this will need to be supplemented by additional plurilateral, regional and bilateral cooperation. In this way the climate change regime has strong analogies to the existing non-proliferation regime, and looks to carry out similar functions in terms of trust-building, monitoring, control and verification of greenhouse gas emissions.
If successful, the UN climate talks have the potential to provide significant security benefits in reducing conflict risks and avoiding catastrophic climatic impacts in the coming decades. A successful regime would also provide other indirect benefits by supporting a more collaborative approach to international relations including cooperation on areas such as energy security, conflict prevention, and development.
Alternatively, significant failure at Copenhagen could exacerbate tensions between and within countries, undermining cooperation and leading to a politics of insecurity as countries and communities focus on protecting themselves against climate change impacts, potentially at the expense of others.
In order to correctly value the importance of mitigation and adaptation measures, climate change negotiators need to be more aware of existing security community analysis on potential climate change related threats including: loss of territory, statelessness and increased numbers of displaced persons; stress on shared international water resources, e.g. with the melting of glaciers; and tensions surrounding the opening of the Arctic region to resource exploitation and trade.
Climate policy makers could also learn from security community approaches to managing worst case scenarios, as climate change poses significant threats to global security and wellbeing that appear quite likely, are large in magnitude, may unfold relatively swiftly, and are unprecedented in nature.
At the same time, it is essential that the security community are highly engaged in the proposed climate change regime, in order to understand the likelihood of it effectively control climate change, as this will impact security planning scenarios; clarify the security impacts of climate change polices; and highlight areas where the climate regime will not address serious security threats.
The aim of this meeting was to build on previous discussions and workshops to explore how the international climate regime can help to improve the prospects for continued delivery of high levels of global security.
The questions addressed on the agenda focused on the following issues:
Will the planned global international climate regime effectively reduce the risk of significant security threats from climate change? What is the best case scenario for future climate change under a Copenhagen regime? What do current security regimes suggest will be key elements of a successful climate regime?
What are the critical risks to the success of the global climate change regime? How can these risks be mitigated and minimised? What are our fall-back options for controlling climate change? In case of Copenhagen failure will the UN Security Council become a forum for climate change?
How can the security community help other policy audiences consider credible worst case scenarios inside climate change politics and policy? What is the security community’s role in communicating the security consequences of worst case scenarios to decision makers?
Can climate policy makers learn from security community in terms of how to manage and deliver investment in large scale collaborative R&D programmes on low carbon technologies inside limited timescales? How might a crash programme of climate mitigation be prepared (e.g. CCS, CSP, solar, bio-fuels, etc.) in case of more rapid and extreme climate change?
Where and how will some of the major security impacts of climate change and climate policy be managed in the international system e.g. increased proliferation risks from expanded use of nuclear power; trans-boundary water tensions due to new water control investment; management of environmental refugees; management of terrestrial and maritime border disputes due to shifting sea-level and resource distribution?
How can the international climate regime help stimulate greater investment in early warning systems and conflict prevention and resilience?
The workshop was attended by high level experts from various security community professionals including Dr. Jay Gulledge of Pew Climate Centre, Sherri Goodman from CNA, Jennifer Morgan of WRI, Geoff Dabelko of Wilson Centre and Robert McKinnon of Embassy of Australia, Washington.
Nick Mabey’s presentation is available to download above.
If you would like more information on this project, would like to get involved or be kept in the loop on future workshops, please contact E3G.