G8 climate and security link ‘significant’ says expert

By Ed King

A short line of text in this week’s G8 communique linking climate change to global security concerns could influence the way rising emissions are dealt with at an international level.

Leaders cited climate change as a “contributing factor in increased economic and security risks globally”, a step former UK government advisor Tom Burke says is hugely significant.

“That’s the first time I can recall an explicit statement from the G8 leaders that this is not an environmental issue. It is an economic and security issue,” he told RTCC.

“It jumped out at me – it’s a significant statement. And it’s the contradiction that if you are saying that, and want to revitalise growth and deal with poverty, then you better keep the temperature below 2°C or you have not got a prayer of doing that.

“I think that is by far and away the most important part of that communique, because if they don’t tackle that problem, how can they accomplish all the other goals apart from tax, if they fail to tackle climate change.”

The UK 2010 Security Review noted the country was vulnerable to the effects of climate change and its impact on food and water supply (Pic: MOD)

The closing statement is agreed by high level civil servants from participating countries. Burke suspects the line came from France, which insisted climate change was in the communique.

But he says linking climate and security issues could also benefit President Obama, who is involved in a bitter fight with Congress over efforts to cut the country’s emissions, which are the largest after China.

“The way this works is that lots of people in bureaucracies around the world will use this to get more purchase on policy,” Burke said.

The potential security impacts of extreme changes in the world’s climate have been studied in depth by leading militaries.

A report by the American Security Project NGO in April revealed 100 countries now regard it as a national security concern, with many concerned over localised conflicts as a result of drought and resource scarcity.

Some analysts have linked the growing confrontation between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of a dam across the Nile, as a classic example of resource conflict.

The Grand Renaissance Dam could provide Ethiopia with abundant energy, but threatens water flow further down the river. The Guardian reported Egypt President Morsi as saying the country was “willing to sacrifice blood to ensure that not one drop of the Nile is lost”.

Earlier this year, the UK’s leading climate envoy Neil Morisetti, a former Admiral in the Royal Navy, told RTCC countries based on the Equator were at particular risk, given the extra stress these areas are likely to face.

“The consequences of a changing climate adds to the stresses, particularly in a belt that runs in a belt north and south of the Equator – Africa, Middle East and on into Asia,” he said.

“You could argue in Northern Europe it doesn’t affect us, but the reality is we live in a globalised world, and we are dependent on what happens in other parts of the world for our own wellbeing and prosperity.”

In January a UK/Pakistan initiative to have climate change debated at the UN Security Council was blocked by Russia and China, who fear it could lead to a greater burden on poorer nations with large greenhouse gas emissions to take action.

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