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How should the G7 show they care about climate risk?

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The G7 pride themselves on being responsible global actors. Conflict prevention and development have been regular agenda items throughout the years. But the G7 must be prepared to deal with emerging global risks. As Ministers of Foreign Affairs for G7 nations meet in Lübeck on the 14th and 15th of April, they will discuss the ability of the international institutions to cope with such consequences.

Who’s responsible for climate risk?

Climate risk effects each and every person but taking responsibility for addressing it tends to slip between the cracks. The recent disaster risk negotiations provide a case in point. Despite climate being the largest driver of disasters somehow climate was someone else’s problem. But who is that someone? Many argue that the UNFCCC is that someone but whilst it has catalysed mitigation conversations the world over, adaptation i.e. coping with impacts, has been sidelined. This is not what best practice risk management looks like, to take a comprehensive approach this challenge is going to take leadership. With the pre-Paris G7 fast approaching is this the moment to kick-start this conversation?

Why bother?

The list of reasons is extensive but here’s three to get us started. One, science says so. Climate risks pose a serious threat. Severity varies dependent on the scenario but the conclusion is pretty consistent, we need to be prepared. Our local, national and international structures will have to adapt to the accelerating threat. We are actively addressing counter-terrorism and nuclear proliferation, our response to climate is not of the same magnitude.

Two, we can’t pretend we don’t live in a globalised economy. We use products and services everyday whose lifetime lives far beyond the borders of any one country. Regardless of where the frontend of climate impacts hit they will echo through global supply chains and cultures.

Three, we do actually care. The international community consistently work together in response to crisis, poverty and hardship. In the most recent example, when cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu a flurry of countries and over 100 NGOs came forward with resources and manpower to help the stricken communities. To keep this up, we’ll need to make some changes which correspond with our changing climate.

What do we need?

For too long the deniers have held climate science hostage but now we need it more than ever. We need more sophisticated and better data that enables decision makers to choose how much climate risk they are prepared to take. This isn’t just about understanding temperature rise, but also enabling prioritisation by identifying vulnerability and security hot spots that result from second and third order impacts. Deciding how much climate risk you’re willing to take is far from simple. It’s bound up in judgements about ethical, economic and social values. But the climate will not wait for us to resolve our indecision – these choices have to be made and someone has to be awarded responsibility for doing so.

The international system is fit for another age. It is not resilient to a changing climate. To cope we will need to shift our approaches. We must equip these institutions and create the channels for information and tools to enable reform.

If not the G7, who?

The G7 alone will not be able to transform global attitudes to climate risk and resilience but these global norm setters can help set the direction. They can begin piecing together the architecture we need to prepare for climate change and secure resilience. When African heads of state arrive on the second day there is an even greater opportunity for this discussion. Many of these countries have far more experience of coping with weather extremes and crisis. They also comprise of some of the largest aid recipients in the world. In both cases G7 countries can learn a thing or two. If we are to maintain relationships across borders climate change will inevitably shape these interactions.

The disaster risk discussions pushed climate change back to the UNFCCC saying they didn’t want to climate politics to pollute their discussions. Sadly climate impacts don’t know such bounds. The climate is changing and no G7 country is exempt from climate risk. The G7 meeting this June is an opportunity to be seized, to show they’re serious about protecting citizens and economies from climate risk en route to Paris.

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