The case for green defence
Is food and energy security crowding out the sustainability agenda?
This newsletter, we’ll be starting with something novel and taking a broader look at security perspectives, pushing beyond the dominant binary narratives that pit climate action against food and energy security.
First, by exploring the question of “green defence” and “climate security”, which was a topic at the recent International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Second the question of “human security” - what it is and why it is unusually relevant in 2022?
I’ll also be offering an update on a hectic month in the European Parliament on everything from the taxonomy on sustainable finance to carbon border taxes - so stay tuned for that.
What is green defence, and who is doing it?
The Shangri-La Dialogue is an important regional defence summit, and this was the first meeting since the pandemic. Media coverage focused on US-China competition for influence and leadership in the region, and what this means for Taiwan. Ukraine’s President Zelenksy (sporting a T-shirt created by a 16 year-old Singapore designer) gave a virtual keynote, providing the Vietnamese delegation (not the Chinese as was widely reported in the media) with an opportunity to leave the room.
But the meeting also featured a session on Climate Security and Green Defence, with representatives from the Maldives, the UK, Germany and New Zealand.
👉 In her opening statement, the chair pointed out that the Asia Pacific region is highly exposed and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and this exacerbates tensions within or between countries, as well as creating new areas of contestation.
Climate change will also directly affect the interests of the defence sector, for example rising sea levels could jeopardize military facilities in coastal or island locations. At the same time, the armed forces remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels in their operations.
Dr Tobias Lindner, Minister of State, Federal Foreign Office, Germany said:
“What we can see today following Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s wheat exports is a fast forward snap shot of what experts have been predicting as a result of climate change induced resource scarcity. (…)
Or to put it more bluntly, a drastically increased potential for conflict.”
He also said that NATO and the EU should emphasize the carbon footprint of the armed forces, have indicators that are comparable, and offer lessons learned and best practice.
“There is no such thing as green or sustainable warfare. However, in housing, infrastructure, procurement, we need to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Admiral Sir Ben Key, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, UK Royal Navy, talked about the reputational incentive to decarbonize their operations:
“If we wish to function effectively as the defence forces and militaries of the future, then we need to reflect the values which are so strongly held by so many of the young people that we have the privilege of employing.”
The topic also came up in a series of papers on “alternative paradigms” presented at the recent Stockhom + 50 conference. One such paper on “Why climate change matters for human security” notes:
While earlier research in this field focused on the question of whether or not there was a link between climate change, peace, and security, research is now pivoting, arguably more usefully for programming purposes, towards more systemic understandings of climate-fragility risk dynamics. The scientific focus has duly shifted from questions of if towards the questions of when and how those pressures overwhelm States and societies, and contribute to conflict and fragility.
What is human security & why does it matter?
Human security is an idea which has been around since 1994, and it seeks to emphasize people’s security over territorial security. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2012, and the aim is to advocate for policy approaches that look beyond protecting the nation-state to protecting what we care most about in our lives - basic needs, physical integrity and human dignity. It holds that everyone has the right to freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom from indignity.
👉 This approach seems unusually relevant today, and more constructive than framing each crisis as a trade-off between one group and another - whether it’s within countries or across regional blocs.
A useful reference is the UNDP’s report “New Threats to Human Security in the Anthropocene” published earlier this year.
The report shows that people’s sense of safety and security is at a low in almost every country, including the richest countries.
“Many people are losing the narrative of their lives. There is just a sense that the world is changing around us many different ways.”
That was from Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office at the UNDP, speaking in a webinar last month hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
Some of my big takeaways:
👉 Climate change is intersecting with inequalities in ways that are creating novel challenges that have little precedent in human history.
👉The importance of empowering and protecting individuals, with the added dimension of solidarity.
👉Give more attention to the idea of agency.
Highlights from Green and Sustainable Finance
The EU Parliament has been busy in June with a pile of legislation covering everything from the taxonomy on sustainable finance, to the the future of fossil-fuel cars and even controversial carbon border taxes.
EU Parliament rejects plan to label gas and nuclear as “green”
The European Commission’s controversial plan to label gas and nuclear as sustainable energy under the taxonomy on sustainable finance was rejected this week by two key parliamentary committees in a 76 to 62 vote. The plan will go to a plenary vote in July, and if it is overturned again, the proposal will be scrapped.
France led the majority of member states pushing for the inclusion of gas and nuclear. On the other side was a smaller group comprising Luxembourg, Spain, Austria and Denmark was opposed to the label, while Germany, which is highly dependent on gas, objected to the inclusion of nuclear as sustainable.
European deputies support plan to end sales of new petrol & diesel cars from 2035
The vote on June 8 upholds last year’s proposal from the European Commission requiring a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars by 2035, which would make it impossible to sell fossil fuel-powered vehicles in Europe from that date.
The vote confirms the parliament's position for upcoming negotiations with EU countries on the final law.
👉 The aim is to speed Europe's shift to electric vehicles and encourage carmakers to invest heavily in electrification, aided by another EU law that will require countries to install millions of vehicle chargers.
Carmakers including Ford and Volvo have publicly supported the EU plan to stop combustion engine car sales by 2035, while others, including Volkswagen, aim to stop selling combustion engine cars in Europe by that date.
EU Parliament rejects a suite of key climate proposals
Against a backdrop of rising energy costs and inflation, the parliament is deeply divided over the level of ambition for emissions reductions policies. As these measures are critical to the EU’s ability to achieve its goal of cutting net emissions 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, lawmakers will have a second vote next week, on June 22.
Among the rejected proposals last month were:
A reform of the EU’s carbon market
Introduction of a carbon border tax
Establishment of a Social Climate Fund
Reuters reports: The second vote looks set to be complicated and divisive. Lawmakers will vote again on the carbon market amendments that won support in the the first vote, before the entire proposal was rejected. They will also consider a raft of other amendments, which groups will now propose in search of a winning compromise.
From and beyond the podcast
🗞️ Earlier this month, I interviewed IPCC WG3 author and economist Celine Guivarch for Polytechnique Insights to find out about the costs of mitigating climate change, and whether the real problem is capitalism. It was a really insightful conversation.
🏖️ And with that I’ll be taking a summer break in July so expect the next edition of this newsletter to arrive in mid-August.
I hope you will also be able to take some time to recharge and get away from the headlines.
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