We welcome the initiative of the Republic of Niger to hold an open debate on the important issue of the humanitarian effects of environmental degradation and peace and security.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The adverse consequences of climate change and environmental degradation remain of utmost concern for the EU and its Member States, as they undermine peace and security, global sustainable development, water security, health, economic prosperity, food security and livelihoods. Climate change is an existential threat to humanity and biodiversity across all countries and regions and requires an urgent collective response.
In the EU Council Conclusions on climate diplomacy from January 2020, EU Member States once more acknowledged how climate change multiplies threats to international stability and security, in particular affecting those in most fragile and vulnerable situations.
The EU recognises that the effects of environmental degradation and climate change not only increase the risk of humanitarian crises, displacement and conflict - especially in fragile states - but are also most felt by populations already affected by these crises, including refugees, internally displaced persons, children, elderly, people with disabilities, and other persons in vulnerable situations. This has become particularly clear in conflict zones impacted by droughts and floods, like the Sahel, Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan. Women and girls are hit disproportionally by the effects of climate change and disasters; their inclusion in decision-making processes is key to building inclusive resilience.
Protecting the environment, tackling climate change with global action, and ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources is a means to foster peace, security and sustainable livelihoods.
The EU is committed to addressing climate change and environmental degradation through an ambitious policy on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and environmental protection globally, enshrined in the European Green Deal. Reducing emissions to achieve a climate neutral EU by 2050, increasing energy sustainability and efficiency, building a resource efficient and circular economy, and reversing biodiversity loss will ultimately increase resilience globally and reduce risk of conflict over natural resources in the future.
Following the EU’s approach, mitigation of climate-related risks and alleviation of environmental stress can be addressed more effectively through global cooperation and multilateral channels, notably through the three Rio Conventions, the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework and the UNECE Water Convention.
Hazards can be prevented from turning into disasters by building resilience, (implementing risk reduction) anticipatory action, early warning and early action. Increasing climate adaptation capacities and disaster risk reduction globally is a priority for the EU, in particular supporting the efforts of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States that are extremely vulnerable to disasters, climate change, floods and droughts, as well as threats to water security. As part of the European Green Deal, the EU is enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change with a new, more ambitious EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, to be adopted early 2021. The EU’s commitment to supporting international climate action will be backed by financial support – with at least 25% of EU development cooperation finance allocated to climate change.
The EU humanitarian-development and peace nexus approach aims to address the root causes of conflict and forced displacement, including disaster-related displacement, and minimise its impact; strengthening resilience of individuals and communities lies at the core of EU support. Risk and impact assessments can help better anticipate potential issues related to climate/disasters that could cause displacement. Without opening the application field of some legal instruments such as the 1951 Geneva Convention, the EU supports efforts to consider how existing legal frameworks could be applied more effectively to environmentally-related displacement, identify gaps and strengthen guidance in this area. The EU humanitarian aid helps displaced populations in the aftermath of a disaster, but also supports local capacities for risk reduction, preparedness and early action in response to increased risks.
In our assessment of conflict risks, we should integrate climate, water and environmental degradation risks as threat multipliers. Climate and protection concerns are increasingly a key consideration in humanitarian interventions. Similarly, climate and environmental actions should be conflict-sensitive. Cooperation will have to increase between humanitarian, development actors but also with civil protection, climate science, civil society, and the military. It is necessary to ensure effective humanitarian civil-military coordination when armed forces are called upon to support, as a last resort, disaster management and relief efforts due to more frequent and severe weather events.
The EU and its Member States are also committed to advocating globally for the protection of the natural environment in armed conflict through supporting compliance with international humanitarian law and by taking all appropriate measures to address the protection needs of civilians. The destruction and degradation of the environment, either by being used as weapon of war or damaged from attacks and conflict-sustaining activities, ultimately hinders the recovery of conflict-affected populations who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and well-being. It can also lead to irreparable damages to ecosystems, reducing nature’s and society’s resilience to the adverse consequences of disasters and climate change. In particular, the EU condemns the use of access to water as a weapon.
The EU and its Member States reiterate their commitment to continue to take climate and environmental factors and risks, including on water, into account in our strategic engagement with partner countries and work on preventive measures such as early warning systems. We continue to encourage the UN Security Council and the UN system to create a comprehensive information basis for the Council on climate-related security risks, to fully integrate short and long-term climate and environmental risk factors in the assessment and management of threats to peace and security, at country, regional and international levels, and to draw on the expertise of the whole UN system in order to find operational responses to these risks and strengthen UN missions on the ground. Climate-and environment related security risks should also be consistently considered in conflict-prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategies, and the Peacebuilding Commission’s advisory role on such risks should be strengthened. The EU appreciates the Recovery and Peace Building Assessment (RPBA) as a valuable partnership framework of the UN, World Bank and the EU contributing to a shared understanding of the context of conflict, crisis and instability.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.