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Oli Brown (left) and Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Panel Discussions - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Climate Change is a Threat Multiplier, Experts Say

At a recent policy forum at IPI, three visiting speakers agreed that climate change may not directly cause conflict, but can act as a threat multiplier by exacerbating existing tensions or creating new ones.

Climate change, a major issue of our time, is clearly becoming more significant when examining security implications.

One speaker recalled former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s statement after signing the Camp David Accords peace treaty in 1979. He said that his nation will never go to war again, except to protect its water resources.

Another speaker noted, “Climate change is poised to redraw the maps of our entire world, and that could change where we can grow food, where we can find water, how much water flows in rivers, where coastlines and marine boundaries are drawn, how often hurricanes hit land, where people can live and work,” to name a few impacts.

One speaker pointed out that governments and other entities, such as the EU, were increasingly looking at climate change as a security issue for themselves, for donor countries, and also for their aid recipients. He said that the EU is developing a roadmap for dealing with the security implications of climate change, and is seeking to bring the issue into the mainstream of all levels of political dialogue.

The increased threat from humanitarian disasters was another issue highlighted by a number of speakers and participants. Natural disasters are now occurring with more frequency and intensity than in the past, and the resulting humanitarian crises are straining the resources of governments and the international community. One speaker noted that it was necessary to focus on disaster risk reduction and enhancing disaster preparedness, and that funding flows needed to be adjusted to take that into account.

IPI hosted this event on June 10, 2009, in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations and the Delegation of the European Commission to the United Nations.

The event was held under the Chatham House Rule.

The forum brought together three experts on the relationship between climate change and security: Oli Brown, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Alessandro Villa of the European Commission, and Hansjoerg Strohmeyer of the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The timing of the event was particularly opportune as, just a week before, the General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/63/281) requesting that the Secretary-General submit a comprehensive report to the General Assembly on the possible security implications of climate change, as well as inviting the relevant organs of the United Nations to intensify their efforts to address the possible security implications of climate change within their respective mandates.

 

 

Slide show: Image 1 of 9
Photos by Elliot Moscowitz
From left to right: UN Ambassador Carsten Staur of Denmark, Erik Høeg, Oli Brown, International Institute for Sustainable Development

 

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