UAE urges focus on security impact of climate change at Cop26

Summit delegates raise concerns about conflicts triggered by scarce resources

A woman and children fill tanks with water at a displaced persons camp in Herat province, Afghanistan. AFP
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The UAE has joined calls for the security impact of climate change to climb to the top of the agenda at Cop26.

Ministers speaking at the Glasgow summit have raised concerns about conflicts triggered by scarce resources as the natural environment worsens.

Many countries which are vulnerable to climate change are also politically and economically fragile, increasing the risk of conflict.

Mariam Al Mheiri, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said the country was already spending billions of dollars on relief for disasters and conflicts that were “unequivocally worsened by climate change”.

She said the UAE’s partners had described displacement, damaged infrastructure and even extremism in their countries as resources become scarcer.

“It is accordingly time for climate security to assume a place at the top of the international agenda, especially here at the Cop”, she told a panel co-hosted by the UAE.

She set out four priorities: investing in fragile countries, innovation in agriculture, pre-emptive humanitarian aid, and the impact on women and girls.

Her proposals for farming included solar-powered irrigation systems, drought-resistant seeds and better coastal management.

She spoke on the day that more than 40 world leaders at Cop26 promised to bring clean technology to farmers in vulnerable countries.

It was one of numerous agreements on the second day of the summit, which saw dozens of leaders agree to cut methane emissions and tackle deforestation.

“We cannot overstate the security implications of the collapse of rural economies”, the minister said.

Decisions at Cop26 “must be informed by the fact that many countries are experiencing climate change as a form of violence”.

Military concerns

Nato countries increasingly see climate change as a security threat and agreed a 10-point action plan at a summit in June. The alliance is represented at UN climate talks for the first time.

Diplomatic efforts will continue after Cop26, with Germany planning to launch an initiative at a conference in February.

Ben Wallace, the UK’s Defence Secretary, said military forces would be dealing with the fallout if climate negotiations fail.

Ministers face the separate challenge of cutting carbon emissions in their own armed forces. Mr Wallace said the British military was looking to go green but could not power down essential technology while it waits for cleaner options.

“As a defence minister, we have to effectively deal with both sides of the coin”, he said.

“We have a strong obligation to make sure that our forces deliver a sustainable deployment and indeed make sure they move from traditional energies and fuel requirements to more modern requirements.

“But also, we will have to deal with the consequences of a failed climate change policy, if that happens.”

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said troops were preparing for climate change by training in the extreme heat where they might one day have to fight.

“I really believe that security and climate, that is two sides of the same coin”, he said.

“Climate change is making our world more dangerous. Therefore, it matters for security, and therefore it matters for Nato.”

Martha Pobee, a UN delegate to Africa, said eight of the 15 countries most susceptible to climate risks hosted a UN peacekeeping or political mission. This was no coincidence, she said.

“Climate change and armed conflict may represent distinct policy areas, but their consequences increasingly converge in the real world”, she said.

Updated: November 03, 2021, 3:00 AM