Climate-risk Resilience Must Become New Compass for G7 States' Foreign Policy

04/20/2015 01:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2015

In their final communiqué of the Meeting in Lübeck, the G7 Foreign Ministers made a clear reference to the threatening risks of climate change and fragility and decided on a united course of action.

They are thereby responding to the particular situation of states and societies affected by fragility, for which climate impacts can lead to a vicious circle. Lukas Rüttinger, in his analysis of complex climate-caused risk factors, shows how exactly climate change affects the fragility of states.

The G7 Foreign Ministers can take a leading role in avoiding the increased weakening and even total collapse of states and societies threatened by fragility challenges. As evidence demonstrates, one does not need to reinvent the wheel for this.

Resilience as new compass for foreign policy

When the nature of conflicts and crises change as a result of climate change, resilience has to become the compass for foreign policy. Resilience describes the existential ability of a nation or society to cope with major crises.

The essential tools for this are already available to the international community. This includes examples from global climate and development policy or the field of crisis and conflict prevention, e.g. when alternative options of generating income are created or when access to vital resources such as water or food is made available.

However, a closer inspection reveals that the systems for supporting effected states often operate independently from each other and the potential for concentrated efforts is insufficiently exploited:

Climate adaptation: Adaptation is an indispensable part of the solution to climate-fragility risks. In recent years enormous progress has been made in this field. Nevertheless, adaptation strategies too seldom take fragility and conflict risks into account. This starts with the necessary vulnerability analyses. Furthermore, nations impacted by fragility often have only a limited chance of gaining access to climate finance.

Development policy and humanitarian aid: The mainstreaming of "climate proofing" has already led to advances in all areas of development work. However, this approach has not yet been comprehensively implemented in fragile contexts. Additionally, in March this year during the Sendai summit on the future of disaster risk reduction, it became clear that there is a persistent lack of institutional and financial capacity in many countries when it comes to improving early warning systems. Moreover, these systems have yet to be connected to the international climate policy process.

Peacebuilding: It is true that different peace and security policy actors -- among them the UN Security Council -- have called for an improved consideration of climate-fragility risks. However, climate risks continue to remain insufficiently integrated into fragility and conflict analyses. This is exemplified by the analyses published as part of the "New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States". Furthermore, only a small number of instruments for financing peacebuilding and conflict prevention measures provide explicit funding for programs on fighting climate risks.

The year 2015 provided a great opportunity for converging these global policy processes -- especially regarding the establishment of resilience: integrated approaches need to be taken in designing a global development agenda, for the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and at the climate treaty aimed at in Paris.

A leading role that needs to be adopted by the G7 governments is the explicit addressing of this issue, as well as the handling of climate-fragility risks in a structural manner as opposed to using ad hoc measures. At the same time, systematic cooperation with potentially affected states is also needed.

Strengthened engagement of G7 states towards resilience

An integrated policy process means actively combining and coordinating climate change adaptation, humanitarian aid, peacebuilding and conflict prevention: At the national level through policy coherence, between the G7 states through increased cooperation, through a bilateral dialogue with effected states, and globally by strengthening resilience efforts in the multilateral development structure. In light of this, we as authors of the report "A New Climate For Peace" recommend to the G7 member states a range of entry points for increasing the resilience of nations and communities:

Integration begins at home: Make climate-fragility risks a central foreign policy priority: The G7 governments need to start with integrating climate and fragility risks into their ministries' relevant planning, implementation, and evaluation processes.

Enhance G7 cooperation, come together for a new dialogue: Transboundary problems can best be solved through coordinated international measures, to which a high-level G7 Task Force can contribute in order to initiate closer cooperation between G7 members.

Set a global resilience agenda: Inform multilateral processes and structures. The G7 governments can work together to contribute towards breaking down sectoral barriers and siloed approaches that until now have hindered the ability of multilateral processes and institutions in the field of development work and humanitarian aid to comprehensively deal with climate-fragility risks. A meaningful peace dividend can be generated through support for conflict-sensitive adaptation policies.

Partner for resilience: Achieve local impact through international cooperation. Close cooperation between different initiatives can ensure a contribution at the global level towards the strengthening of resilience against climate change and fragility at the local level. In this respect, the G7 need to forge close partnerships with national governments, local authorities and NGOs in states affected by fragility.

Undoubtedly, the comprehensive reduction a global greenhouse gas emissions remains essential to limit the threat of climate change risks. However, in the face of the irreversible changes in climate that have already occurred, effective measures aimed at minimizing and managing these risks need to be urgently developed.