‘Whole-of-Government’ Response to Global Climate Change

‘Whole-of-Government’ Response to Global Climate Change

Nick Mabey participated at the Halifax Forum in 2010 in Nova Scotia, Canada towards which he contributed a paper on taking a holistic approach to climate security.

Hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States in cooperation with the Government of Canada, the conference attracted the foremost security policymakers, defense and military representatives, and analysts from North America, Europe, and Asia for in-depth intellectual exchange on security and defense challenges.

Nick was part of a panel on ‘Resources and Risks: Are We Insatiable or Just Unprincipled?’, shared by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Richard Engel, Director, Climate Change and State Stability Program, U.S. National Intelligence Council and R.Adm. Neil Morisetti, Climate and Energy Security Envoy, Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom moderated by Ms. Lisa Friedman, Deputy Editor, ClimateWire.

His paper entitled “Facing the Climate Security Threat: Why the Security Community Needs a “Whole-of-Government” Response to Global Climate Change”, encourages international governments to take a risk management approach when making investment decisions for energy systems, infrastructure, and agriculture to ensure that they are resilient to likely impacts of climate change.

A brief summary is below and the paper is available to download above.


Public policy decisions with far greater costs than climate change policies — from military procurement to interest rates to financial system regulation — are taken under far higher uncertainty than exists over climate change science, impacts, or policy choices.

Climate change should be treated similarly to other strategic threats like terrorism and cyber-security. It is a global problem that relies mainly on civilian action by civilian authorities to reduce security risks to manageable levels and, if left unmanaged, will have serious hard-security implications.

As security actors in many countries move from analysis of climate threats to response strategies, the need for better decision-support systems to design and prioritize action is becoming clear. To date, the security community’s priority has been to manage the impacts of climate change without compromising security objectives. But given the inadequacy of current emission reduction commitments, security planning will need to be based on far more extreme climate scenarios.

A more effective “whole-of-government” approach to the risk management of climate change would require the inclusion of climate change in national security processes, regular assessments of the effectiveness of climate security action, and a risk-management framework that expands responsibilities well beyond environment and energy ministries.


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