Climate change belongs on the security agenda

The effects of climate change threaten peace and security and must therefore be dealt with as a global security issue. This and how developments should be dealt with were the point of departure when Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström took part in the high-level event ‘Climate, peace and security: the time for action’ in Brussels on 22 June.

  • Margot Wallström

    “A climate change conference will be held in September next year by United Nations Secretary-General, and that agenda must incorporate climate-related security risks,” emphasised Ms Wallström in her concluding remarks.

    Photo: Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU

  • Federica Mogherini

    High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini opened the conference by stressing the importance of living up to the Sustainable Development Goals while also understanding the security dimension of climate change. In addition to Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs of India, was among the main speakers.

    Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU

  • Thomas Nilsson

    The fact that the effects of climate change must be addressed on the security agenda means that defence organisations have a key role to play in climate-related efforts. Sweden was represented at the event by Major-General Thomas Nilsson, who is also the Swedish representative on EU and NATO Military Committees.

    Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU

"A climate change conference will be held in Katowice in December this year, and that agenda must incorporate climate-related security risks," emphasised Ms Wallström in her concluding remarks.

In addition to ministers from countries across the globe, participants included UN environment, climate change and disaster management representatives, NATO and other organisations, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete and the event's initiator High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

In her opening address, Ms Mogherini stressed the fact that for the second year in a row, climate impacts have displaced more people than war. She added that control over water is also becoming an issue of power and a source of conflict.
"The international community must become much better at understanding, highlighting and committing to tackling the security threats posed by climate change. A climate change conference will be held in Katowice in December this year, and that agenda must incorporate climate-related security risks," said Ms Wallström at the event, where she both took part in a panel discussion and summarised the discussions in a concluding address.

The different effects of climate change were highlighted. They included the immediate impact of extreme weather events that requires preparedness, but especially the long-term consequences, as sea levels are expected to rise, disrupting hydrological cycles and drying up lakes and other fresh water sources, leading to extensive drought events. Several participants highlighted the risk of these developments increasing competition for food and water, undermining people's ability to support themselves. This could in turn cause people to be displaced and increase tensions in nations already at risk, resulting in instability and conflict. The risk of people in vulnerable situations joining extremist groups was also highlighted.

Other issues discussed included the leadership role that large organisations such as the EU and UN must assume, and the close global cooperation needed to build capacity, increase knowledge and promote cross-sectoral efforts to tackle common challenges and threats.
"We are seeing a lot of extremism and nationalism, when what we really need is more multilateralism, not least to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. When Sweden holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council in July, we will focus on the link between climate change and peace and security," said Ms Wallström.

"These challenges must be taken very seriously. We therefore very much welcome this initiative by Federica Mogherini. This event offers an important platform for advancing the discussion on how to address these complex issues," said Ms Wallström.