Opinion - Climate Change - Bad News for Environmental Security

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The important issue of environmental security, which concerns problems such as water stress, food insecurity, and disappearing biodiversity, is being seriously exacerbated by global climate change.1 This subject has already been taken up by international fora including the G8,2 the European Union (EU), NATO3 and by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).4 It has also been the subject of sporadic attention from several Western governments, notably the US in the 1990s and more recently by several EU Member States, in particular the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The impact of global climate change on international security was the theme of a conference, called 'From Bali to Poznan: New Issues, New Challenges', held at the European Parliament in Brussels on 18 December 2007 and organised by the Institute for Environmental Security (IES).5 It was attended by 130 experts from international organisations, EU institutions, governments, research institutes,

NGOs, including experts from the military. There was an overview of the highlights of the Bali Conference6 chaired by Ms Satu Hassi, Member of the European Parliament, followed by comments from ambassadors Boon von Ochssee, Ehrenkrona and Tombinsky.7 The discussions then focused on the nexus between climate change, security and sustainable development in the lead-up to the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP14) to be held in Poznan, Poland in December 2008 and the action which is therefore urgently needed (and is at the core of the IES's strategy).

During the conference speakers underlined the fact that one-and-a-half billion people in Asia will face freshwater shortages as glaciers melt in the mountains. Similar situations of environmental insecurity are to be found in Africa and may rapidly occur also in Latin America. Climate change leads to migration as land turns into desert, storms and floods destroy livelihoods, and populated coasts are submerged. Conflicts and tensions are likely to occur in countries hosting the new influx of migrants.

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