The international debate on the security implications of climate change has gained considerable momentum over the past few years. There is little doubt that climate change poses a key challenge for global economic development and human wellbeing, and as such poses a risk to peace and security. At a regional level, the African Union (AU) Commission has engaged in discussions on the issue, with a view to stimulating regional responses and cooperation across the continent.
All African countries will be affected by climate change – some more than others. Many studies point to significant potential reduction in agricultural productivity due to increased temperature. Rising sea levels are likely to affect stability in coastal areas, and in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel erratic and low rainfall patterns already exacerbate existing chronic challenges. Overall, the key risks for Africa are scarcity of water, food, and energy, caused by droughts, floods and storms which are likely to result in increasing migration of people.
Considering that climate change has the potential to significantly impact societies, undermine human security and escalate the risks of conflict and instability, a new initiative is proposed. A new profile for climate diplomacy is evolving, using the full range of available policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention, and humanitarian assistance, as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation. The aim is to move from risk analysis of climate-related threats to preventive action.
Climate diplomacy could encourage regional cooperation and social development in the energy and water sectors through joint strategies for a low carbon economy and a climate resilient green economy. Effective partnerships will be needed between governments (with foreign ministries assuming a core role) as well as the science and business sectors and civil society. Moreover, strong political commitment at the national, regional and global level will be required.
An emphasis on climate diplomacy could help Africa influence international climate change negotiations. Foreign policies are central to the debate and diplomats, negotiators and policy makers in Africa should ensure that climate change is included on the agendas of foreign affairs ministries. Many African countries lack guidance on how to integrate the climate change issues into their foreign policy and there are no viable blueprints for climate change negotiations or binding agreements on any level. To achieve results, foreign policies must take on a level of international climate diplomacy.
The workshop was attended by experts from the climate policy and development community, the foreign relations and security fields, as well as decision-makers from the AU, other regional organisations, representatives from Germany and other bilateral partners, and civil society. The workshop covered implications of climate change in Africa for sectors such as water, food, agriculture, energy and trade, and the consequences for resource security, livelihoods, cooperation and peace in the region.
Results included concrete policy options and recommendations for water, agriculture, energy and food security concerns with regard to climate change. Relevant risks peculiar to the African context were identified and their links to security and stability were thoroughly discussed. Climate diplomacy should be carried out in a manner that will address fragmentation, coordination and the building of both horizontal and vertical partnerships.
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