Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks
This independent report, commissioned by the G7 members, identifies seven compound climate-fragility risks that pose serious threats to the stability of states and societies in the decades ahead. Based on a thorough assessment of existing policies on climate change adaptation, development cooperation and humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding, the report recommends that the G7 take concrete action, both as individual members and jointly, to tackle climate-fragility risks and increase resilience to them.
When climate change exacerbates conflicts and crises, resilience must be the compass for foreign policy. The Resilience Compass features news, reflections and opinions on climate change and fragility, with contributions from the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat, International Alert and guest authors.
This collection of resources complements and extends the analysis of the report. It contains an interactive factbook allowing users to explore case studies from around the world and provides background readings and contextualized report and event summaries.
Earlier this month, armed clashes between competing factions of South Sudan’s government broke out in the capital Juba, a day after the nation’s fifth anniversary of its independence. The conflict dates back to political events and factional fighting that first emerged in 2013.
Eastern DRC has a long history of pervasive violence and instability. Aid agencies have been sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into this region for the past 25 years now, while the situation for millions of Congolese is merely improving. Decades of armed violence, human rights violation, extreme poverty and instability have displaced millions of people in South and North Kivu, creating a situation of protracted emergency, where traditional ways of programming aid intervention have turned out to be inadequate, not to say disappointing, and seem to do little to help people restore livelihoods or repair torn social relations over the long term. Humanitarians are searching for new ways to boost the resilience of people living in a protracted emergency situation. What does that mean when it comes to designing a project in such a fragile and insecure context which is also affected by climate and environmental risks?
Last week saw the most significant climate change agreement of our lifetimes. After 21 years of wrangling, world leaders finally managed to reach a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, weighing heavily on the same leaders’ minds is how to deal with the pervasive threat of terror. The aim in both cases is to safeguard the right of current and future generations to live safe, secure and fulfilled lives. The fact that the climate conference took place in Paris grimly underscores this duality. But it isn’t simply that tackling climate change and conflict are parallel challenges. Rather, they are linked risks which need to be met with linked responses.
Climate change and population increases are adding pressure to fisheries resources in a lake shared by Uganda and DRC, thereby intensifying intra-and inter-community conflicts in this already fragile region. Improved resource management could bring opportunities for more resilient and peaceful communities.
The booming geothermal industry in Kenya illustrates how rapid transitions to renewable energy systems can risk generating conflicts if they are not done with sensitivity to the impact of transition on marginalised populations and to local ethnic and political dynamics.
Climate-related impacts on agriculture and food security can contribute to fragility and instability, particularly when market volatility and high prices intersect with poor governance and economic and social grievances. Building resilient food systems can mitigate this risk.
Dr. Martin Frick, Director of Climate, Energy and Tenure Division at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization spoke with International Alert about sustainable resource management in the agricultural sector for resilience and conflict prevention.
Oil and gas development from unconventional techniques, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), have been hailed as a new step towards securing domestic energy supplies and states’ energy security. The national security benefits of developing unconventional oil and gas are well defined – both in terms of security of supply and in terms of independence from other states and groups, such as Russia or OPEC. While more diverse sources can signal greater security of supply, some environmental and social issues which affect the local contexts in which drilling and fracking take place, such as concerns around water contamination, land rights and economic impacts, can act as conflict drivers between affected communities and companies and within communities themselves.
At their June summit, G7 leaders pledged to develop long-term low-carbon strategies and phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century. They agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2 degrees over pre-industrial levels.
The joint declaration read, "We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term, including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavor."
This marks a major step in the battle against climate change. It is hoped that commitments from the G7 leaders will help build momentum before the major UN climate summit in Paris this December.
Violence erupted in Accra, Ghana in June, following slum demolitions that were part of a plan to reduce flood risk. The events show how measures to respond to climate change can unintentionally impact the security environment, and how finding workable solutions that reduce climate risk can be fraught with difficulty.
Old Fadama is the biggest and oldest slum in Accra, built along main waterways that drain into the Gulf of Guinea. Known locally as ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, the slum is also one of the world’s largest electronic waste dumping sites. The accumulation of waste here blocks drainage along the Odaw River leading to the Korle Lagoon, exacerbating the city’s lack of adequate sewer and storm drains and contributing to frequent floods.
The most common popular narrative about climate change and migration suggests a scenario where migrants travel long distances, driven solely or primarily by climate impacts, and raise the risk of violent conflict in their destinations.
This simplistic and inaccurate portrayal of the issue has rightly been challenged. But even though it misses the mark, there are reasons to examine the relationship between these dynamics closely. Migration in the context of climate change, disasters and environmental degradation could add pressure to weak governance systems and increase the risk of fragility. In turn, this could hamper efforts for development and peacebuilding, which, going further down the causal chain, could complicate the security environment.