'Steps are finally being taken on climate security’

This week sees the fourth edition of the Planetary Security Conference in The Hague since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched the Planetary Security Initiative (PSI) in 2015. Louise van Schaik is Head of the Clingendael International Sustainability Centre at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ and project manager of the conference.

Vrouw achter spreekgestoelte

‘Climate change can affect security in many ways, both directly and indirectly. It can cause tensions between population groups over food and water, which are becoming scarcer because of rising temperatures. Natural disasters can threaten people’s safety; just look at the chaos in St Maarten after hurricane Irma. Climate funds can be used in the wrong way, for instance if one group is favoured over another. But they can also be used for good, by finally getting parties to a conflict to come to the negotiating table. And the energy transition has geopolitical implications: from collapsing oil states to countries that benefit from the transition'.

Addressing climate security

'All these themes will be discussed this week at the conference. The original purpose of the conference was to increase knowledge about climate security. And to create a forum where people who work on this policy theme – diplomats, development cooperation experts and defence specialists – can meet once a year. Gradually the focus has shifted to what people can actually do. In 2017 this resulted in The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security, which set out six specific action areas, including issues in Mali, Iraq and Lake Chad. We publish an overview of what has been achieved using an online tool on the PSI website'.

International partners

'Clingendael is heading up the initiative, along with foreign think tanks. Many other national and international organisations are involved in special sessions at the conference. Involving foreign partners was the express wish of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because a number of them already had more experience with these issues. This has also helped spotlight the conference internationally'.

Taking action

'We can hardly say, “This is all thanks to us.” But we have certainly contributed over the past few years to the shift from “Well, we should do something about this” to actually taking action. We are mentioned in EU-level discussions and in debates at the UN Security Council. The Netherlands really achieved something there over the past year. And it’s clear that if the Security Council takes this issue more seriously, it has a knock-on effect throughout the UN'.

The way forward

'However, a lot more still needs to be done. I hope that the conference will specifically discuss what we need to do differently, in terms of policy plans, budgets and capacity. It would also be good if this conference could ensure that the security dimension is included in the climate debate to be convened by Secretary-General António Guterres at the UN General Assembly in September. If we could achieve that, I'd be very pleased.’