Opening Statement EEF Prague - The Climate Change and Security Nexus

Delivered by Ambassador Anne-Kirsti Karlsen at the opening of the Economic and Environmental Forum, Prague, 8 September 2022.

Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies, and gentlemen,

I join others in thanking the Polish CiO and the Coordinator for Economic and Environmental Activities for organizing this meeting despite challenging circumstances. Our appreciation also goes to the Czech Government for once again being our gracious host.

I welcome the rich agenda for the Forum. Norway stands ready to engage in several important issues within the second dimension. The building back efforts in light of the pandemic are still much needed. The many crisis evolving as a consequence of the Russian war in Ukraine are putting not only Ukraine, but all participating states under immense economic and environmental pressure. I once again urge the Russian Federation to stop this war, so that Ukraine can start the process of recovery in cooperation with the OSCE community.

However, today I will focus on one main topic, namely the climate change and security nexus, which is high on the Norwegian agenda.

Distinguished Colleagues,

At the 2021 Ministerial in Stockholm, we witnessed the adoption of the landmark OSCE Ministerial Council Decision No. 3/21 “Strengthening Co-operation to Address the Challenges Caused by Climate Change”. It was a major breakthrough for the OSCE and the international community in recognizing the link between climate change and security and the need to mitigate its worst effects.

Today, no nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis. The risks that climate change impacts pose to international peace and security are real and present.

We already see impacts of climate change, e.g., increased temperatures, sea level rise and increased numbers of extreme weather events. Storms, droughts, floods, wildfires, and heatwaves are becoming more frequent and severe.

This summer in Europe and elsewhere is a good example. We know all to well by now the images of dried-out rivers in Italy and France, and of urban citizens trying to find protection from the heat in public parks and water sources in cities like Madrid, London and Berlin. The last weeks catastrophic floodings in Pakistan bears witness of the same development. These changes have impacts beyond the environmental realm and deeply affect human security as climate change converges with other global pressures.

While climate change rarely, if ever, is the one root cause of conflict, its cascading effects make it a systemic security risk. Including in the OSCE region.

The impacts of climate change increase existing risks to economic prosperity, political stability, military readiness, food, water, health, and energy security. In the worst cases, the impacts can overwhelm states and societies, increasing the risks of violence, instability, and conflict.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) contains important findings on the links between climate change and conflict.

Equally important it finds that climate change adaptation and mitigation have great potential to serve as peacebuilding measures. It can facilitate dialogue and cooperation between conflicting parties towards a common goal. Risks of conflict can also be reduced by promoting climate-sensitive economic activities along with women's self-determination.

Distinguished Colleagues,

For both policymakers and operational actors, the key question to ask is no longer whether, but rather how, climate change interacts with conflict dynamics, and how to consider and mitigate potential and emerging security risks. 

All countries and institutions will increasingly be forced to respond to the security impacts of climate change. Our global stability, human development, and prosperity depend on our collective response to addressing climate change. And it depends on our ability to make our climate action conflict sensitive and our peacebuilding efforts climate sensitive.

Other actors are of course involved in the climate change realm, not least the UN and the activities taking place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We as participating States, however, should pay more attention to the climate change and security nexus and follow up on the decision from Stockholm. For instance, by:

-intensifying dialogue and co-operation with a view to minimizing the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change

- to make use of the OSCE as an additional platform for facilitating the exchange of information and best practices on both the adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change

- co-operate, where appropriate, to build greater resilience to climate change and to take relevant mitigation and adaptation measures

- OSCE executive structures, not least the OCEEA, are important tools to assist participating states to this end.

The Foreign Minister of North Macedonia underscored in the Permanent Council last week the importance of raising further awareness about the climate change and security nexus. Norway welcomes this approach.

I also look forward to the side event later today on security implications of climate change in South-Eastern Europe today organized by the Czech Delegation.

Thank you!