News story

Meeting the climate security challenge

London conference brings together security and climate experts to examine risks to global stability and prosperity.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

An international conference hosted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is bringing together security and climate experts drawn from across governments, academia, think tanks and other parts of civil society to discuss how governments can best respond to the emerging risks to global security and prosperity posed by climate change.

The ‘Climate & Resource Security Dialogue for the 21st Century’ conference at Lancaster House, London on 22 - 23 March will seek to identify possible national, regional and international policy frameworks and practical recommendations for addressing this 21st century challenge.

The scientific evidence on climate change is clear. Climate change is happening now and it will continue to happen. The impacts of climate change threaten access to secure, sustainable and affordable supplies of key natural resources such as water, land, food and energy, which are essential for life and economic prosperity. What is less certain at the moment is how these impacts will affect global stability over time.

While it is unlikely that climate change itself will be a direct cause of conflict, in cases where it leads to the loss of land or livelihoods, it has the potential to increase the risk of global instability and conflict, particularly in parts of the world already experiencing other stresses, such as food or water shortages, health issues or demographic and migration challenges. For this reason, climate change is widely recognised as a “threat multiplier”.

As a ‘threat multiplier’ climate change is a non-traditional security challenge that needs a strategic approach beyond the normal sphere of politics, to include all of government together with public and private enterprises at the national and international level.

Climate Security Conference


The conference is the next contribution in the growing international debate following on from the United Nations Security Council debate in July 2011 and the Berlin conference on Climate Diplomacy in Perspective held in October 2011. Speakers include representatives from the Pentagon, NATO, and the EU External Action Service.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said:

“Climate change is about increased risk: of extreme events, of natural disasters, of changes in weather patterns. As our understanding of the climate grows, so does our understanding of what those risks might mean for our people.

“Around the world, governments - and militaries - are planning for climate instability. From flood defences to foreign aid, climate security is part of the policy discussion.

“And whether you’re from Australia or Bangladesh, South Africa or Japan, your presence here today speaks to the seriousness of the climate security agenda. For governments, the risks are clear: to development, to democracy, and to peace itself. We cannot afford to ignore them.

“We have to plan for a world where climate change makes difficult problems worse.”

Read the full speech

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, the UK’s Climate and Energy Security Envoy said:

“It would be easy for the UK to sit back and say ‘it’s not our problem’. But that would be wrong. For whilst the UK is expected to escape the worst direct physical impacts of climate change, we live in an interconnected world and tackling this global challenge requires a shared vision. A vision of high ambition.

“This conference is part of that vision. It will look at the national and international policies needed to address this challenge and launch a sustained debate on the security threats of climate change. It will build on past successes, such as last year’s UN Security Council debate but also sets concrete outcomes for the future. Outcomes that we hope will shape our domestic and international action and create the right conditions for reaching an international agreement in 2015 that safeguards and sustains the future of our planet for generations to come.”

Climate Security - Wilton Park Dialogues


Global risks, local impacts

The effects of climate change and extreme weather events will increasingly impact on life and work in the UK. For example, earlier this year Honda was forced to reduce production at its plant in Swindon to a 3-day week due to a shortage of components produced in Thailand caused by recent floods.

Climate change impacts affects the prices we pay in the supermarket: high wheat prices - caused in part by extreme weather events and part by resource protectionism - means that it costs more to produce basic foods such as bread. On the High Street, consumables such as computer hard drives have been affected by the flooding in south east Asia, with reduced availability driving prices higher.

Future climate change will cause increased frequency of floods, cyclones and drought, making these resource scarcities worse. These resource stresses might also contribute to existing, or create new, tensions and fragility in certain states. MOD research has concluded that climate change is one of four key issues - along with globalisation, global inequality and innovation - which will be a driver of change throughout the world in the next 30 years.

Published 23 March 2012