Tag Archives: climate change

Environmental security

At their Summit in Strasbourg / Kehl on 3 and 4 April 2009, NATO’s Heads of State and Government tasked the Secretary General to develop a new NATO Strategic Concept. This exercise should be completed by the time of NATO’s next Summit, which is expected to take place towards the end of 2010.

NATO’s new strategic concept: link

The report can be found directly on the following link.

As the European Security Strategy recognises that predicted global climate change will have increasing impact on stability and security in many regions around the world and more particularly in Asia and Africa, and in the context of the forthcoming new NATO strategic concept, the set up of an environmental security strategy is more than needed.

It is important to analyse commonality of assessment between the EU and NATO of predicted global climate change as a factor of instability and insecurity in the most vulnerable places in the world, especially in terms of climate change as a driver of current or future conflicts. Climate change consequences like resource depletion, drought and floods, famine and mass migration, might have a direct impact on EU and NATO security interests.

The adequacy of existing NATO and EU capacities to respond to climate change driven catastrophes and the extent to which existing civilian, policing and military capabilities and assets could be deployed or adapted to meet these future challenges should be assessed.

It would be necessary to recommend measures and modifications to training – through NATO’s ACT described above – and to procurement policies, necessary to improve the EU and NATO’s ability to respond to such crisis.

Existing command and control structures and policies in the context of their applicability to the long-term nature of likely climate-driven crisis and conflicts should be reviewed.

The potential for burden-sharing and specialisation between the EU Member States and NATO allies to optimize resource allocation, civilian, policing and military assets which are required for crisis response and conflicts, whether climate driven or not should be explored.

At present, the climate change issue is only mentioned in the new report presented by the group of experts, chaired by Madeleine Albright.
Taking into account environmental security related to it in the new strategic concept would be a breakthrough.

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The Arctic

The Arctic is a vast area covering more than a sixth of Earth’s inland, covering all 24 time zones and over 30 million square kilometres. Most of the Arctic is a vast 14 million square kilometre ocean surrounded by treeless permafrost. The Arctic is a truly unique, yet vulnerable region.

There are now approximately 4 million people living permanently in the Arctic, including over 30 indigenous nations. The Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states- the United States (Alaska), Iceland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland (a territory of Denmark) and the Russian Federation. Five of the Arctic states are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), three of which are also Member States of the EU.

All eight states are members of an institution known as the Arctic Council (AC), founded in 1996. It is a high-level intergovernmental forum, and while not a law-making or resource-distributing body, the AC has produced important analyses and recommendations on environment protection, resource management and guidelines for shipping among others.

The Arctic region is still not regulated by multilateral agreements, because it was never considered that it would become a navigable waterway or that the region would be exploited for business purposes. However, today it can be said that the Arctic region’s geopolitical and strategic importance is growing. This is symbolised by the planting of a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole in August 2007.

Although scientists are still arguing over exactly how fast the Arctic’s ice will melt, one thing is clear- the effects of climate change are impacting the region more than anywhere else in the world. Arctic average temperature has risen by twice the global average rise in the past 50 years. The old, thick, permanent ice cap is retreating. In 2007, for the first time in modern history, the deeper-water, northern, more direct route opened for navigation by non-icebreaking vessels.

Such impacts threaten to destroy the already rapidly changing and fragile ecosystem network. The situation with a retreating icecap is perhaps the most worrying, as it affects directly the natural habitat of the region, e.g. posing problems for polar bears’ feeding habits.

Arctic is economically attractive for the AC member states in four main aspects:

  • the exploitation of newly accessible oil and gas deposits (and maybe other minerals)
  • Transit shipping
  • Fisheries
  • Tourism

In November 2008, the European Commission adopted a document (“The European Union and the Arctic Region”). In addition to setting out EU interests and policy objectives in the region, the text also proposes measures and suggestions for EU Member States and EU institutions to respond to the challenges. It is the first step towards an EU-Arctic policy. EU’s main policy objectives are as follows:

  • Protecting and preserving the Arctic in unison with its population;
  • Promoting sustainable use of resources;
  • Contributing to enhanced Arctic multilateral governance.

The Iceland’s EU accession negotiations are currently on. As EU’s presence in the AC would increase with Iceland becoming a Member State of the EU, it is a strategically great chance to play a more active and constructive role in the Arctic region, also contributing to the multilateral governance. It could also help to solve collective environmental problems and increase EU’s interest for the Arctic and for its protection on both regional and international levels.

For more information, please read:

EU Maritime Affairs: “The EU and the Arctic region – Overview”
“European Parliament resolution of 9 October 2008 on Arctic governance” (PDF)
Europa: “The Arctic merits the European Union’s attention – first step towards an EU Arctic Policy”
Arctic Council homepage

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