Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea

Environment, Conflict and Cooperation Address by EU Ambassador Michael Reiterer

Seoul, 25/10/2017 - 03:37, UNIQUE ID: 171025_1

FORUM Environment, Conflict and Cooperation 23 October, Korea University

Environment, Conflict and Cooperation

Address by EU Ambassador Michael Reiterer

I would like to congratulate the Germany Embassy and especially Ambassador Auer for organising this excellent exhibition about the impact of climate change on migration. Always a pleasure to come to Korea University where Prof. Park flies the European flag.

I am delighted to be here together with Vice Minister Ahn Byung-ok and Climate Change Ambassador Kim Chan-woo. Our presence together at this event demonstrates that the EU, Germany and Korea are at one in recognising the link between climate change and security. Climate change affects human wellbeing, peace and security. Often the poorest countries in the world are the most vulnerable to its effect. The differences in responses to recent natural disasters in Asia, Central and North America as well as in Europe demonstrate the inequality of resilience to climate change factors.

Economic under-development weakens national capacity to understand, estimate and manage climate risks.  The effects of change often interact with other features of the social, economic and political landscape, generating an elevated risk of political instability and violent conflict.

In some cases, people have no other choice but to flee their homes and move to other regions or other countries, some of them neighbouring, some of them far away, forcing people to embark on a perilous journey only to find themselves living precariously in their new homes because they are not welcome, regarded as a burden or distorting ethnic or religious balances. Some countries, especially small island states, are even faced with extinction altogether.

That is why the EU Global Strategy, which we adopted last year, states that “Climate change and environmental degradation exacerbate potential conflict. Climate change is, I quote, “a threat multiplier that catalyses water and food scarcity, pandemics and displacement”

How to transform climate security policy into practice is the key question. Climate change adaptation strategies and plans are necessary to help countries anticipate the adverse effects of climate change and take action to prevent, minimise, and respond to its potential impacts. Development and humanitarian aid programmes are needed to help States and populations build their economic, governance, and social capacity. Peace-building and conflict prevention programmes are needed to reduce tensions and create an environment for sustainable peace.

EU action is focussed on three areas.

  • First, improving early warning and assessment by promoting better synergy between climate vulnerability assessments and fragility and peace work.
  • Secondly, a focus on better planning to ensure that national climate adaption strategies link with objectives in other areas.
  • Thirdly, an emphasis on effective implementation that ensures principles and best practices at policy level and field based guidance.

Domestically, the 2013 EU Adaptation Strategy provides the framework for ‘climate-proofing’ EU action, ensuring that Europe’s infrastructure is resilient, promoting the use of disaster insurance, funding cross-border water management, and expanding protection for areas with drought or fire risks – California and Portugal to name just two catastrophes. In terms of disaster management, the EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is tasked with monitoring emergencies around the world and coordinating responses within and outside the EU.

This has been reinforced by the new Action Plan on the EU (ECHO) led Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, “A disaster risk-informed approach for all EU policies”, with a strong focus on resilience. These actions help build climate resilience within Europe and also help increase external action on a range of climate issues, including by helping European credibility in climate talks.

Externally, climate security issues are at the heart of work done by the EU's political, development and humanitarian assistance units. 

The good news is that a recent poll by Eurobarometer showed that 88% of EU citizens agree that it is important that the EU funds humanitarian aid activities and continues to do so.

As conflict prevention is one of the EU’s main foreign policy goals, the EU has operationalised its Conflict Early Warning System (EWS). The conflict index produced by the Joint Research Centre of the EU for the Early Warning System includes indicators such as water stress and food insecurity that are relevant for climate security. The current work is looking at how to best ensure that the Early Warning System is able to successfully identify evolving climate security risks and to ensure that those working on climate security make use of it.

For the development community, there is a challenge to integrate climate security thinking into established development and humanitarian processes, which are themselves not far removed from debates over the connections between politics, security and their central fields of endeavour.

The EU is working with partner countries, in particular the most vulnerable, to foster their resilience and reduce their vulnerability to climate impacts. DEVCO, for example, works with the least developed (and least resilient) countries via the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) and the follow-up flagship, GCCA+ - altogether around 650m € - to support more than 51 programmes around the world and active in 38 countries, 8 regions and sub-regions and at the global level in their endeavours to adapt to climate change and supports a variety of activities dealing with adaptation, mitigation, disaster risk reduction and desertification.

Another lead programme, the ACP-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Programme addresses prevention, mitigation and preparedness to natural hazards at regional, sub-regional, national and local levels in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Since 2011, it has supported more than 80 projects.

The EU also contributed to the G7 led Report New Climate for Peace project and has launched a joint EU-UNEP initiative on climate and security in fragile states, using funding from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace project and has launched a joint EU-UNEP initiative on climate and security in fragile states, using funding from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.

As you can see, much has been done already by the European Union and much more remains to be done as our planet is under increasing stress. So I sincerely hope that those are areas where we can further expand our good cooperation with the Republic of Korea.


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