›June 26, 2009 // By Wilson Center StaffIn the run-up to December’s Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen, the idea of REDD, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, is gaining greater currency as a way to bring forests into climate mitigation efforts. Australian geographer Jon Barnett of the University of Melbourne finds the principle of compensating states or communities for reducing deforestation sound. Yet he cautions that the devil is in the details when it comes to implementation. Barnett stresses that deforestation’s diverse causes is an initial challenge in designing effective responses. And to whom should payments be made? Should they go to national governments that may or may not share those resources with communities affected by the restrictions on forest use?
In this interview conducted at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Barnett addresses these questions and highlights a number of areas where translating REDD from principle to practice remains challenging at best and counter-productive at worst: governance and corruption; social justice; monitoring and verification; and potential carbon leakage between participating and non-participating states.
›June 26, 2009 // By Lauren Herzer“The breakdown of ecosystem-dependent livelihoods is likely to remain the premier driver of long-term migration during the next two to three decades,” says In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement, a report launched at the recent international climate negotiations in Bonn.
According to the report, climate change will threaten livelihoods (and could consequently drive migration) through its impact on agriculture, glacial melt, sea-level rise, and the severity and frequency of natural disasters. While the report recognizes that migration is a complex issue involving a “combination of environmental, economic, social and/or political factors,” it stresses the impact of environmental change on “livelihoods which are dependent on ecosystem services, such as agriculture, herding, and fishing.”
Key to the report’s findings is the disproportionate effect that climate change will continue to have on developing countries, which are ill-equipped to adapt to climate change, and where many people’s livelihoods depend directly on ecosystem services. The report calls for the reduction of carbon emissions to mitigate climate change; the promotion of technologies that will enable adaptation; and the active participation of women and other marginalized groups in adaptation planning.
In a recent invitation-only meeting hosted by the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program, Jon Barnett of the University of Melbourne suggested that migration that is partially due to climate might be an opportunity, as “you could use migration to facilitate adaptation.” In Search of Shelter also recognizes this potential opportunity, and suggests that development strategies be formulated accordingly. Better infrastructure, health care, and education in likely receiving cities—many of which are in the developing world and are already overwhelmed by burgeoning slum populations—would significantly reduce the pressure of migration on both migrants and receiving populations.
In Search of Shelter is a unique contribution to the field, examining climate change’s impact on migration in a careful, evidence-based manner. Yet it strikes a common chord with general reports on development by stressing the important role that access to health care, education, and infrastructure play in supporting healthy, secure populations. It may be up for debate how large of a role climate change will play in prompting migration, but it is clear that we need to integrate this issue into broader development, health, and governance strategies.
Image: Cover of In search of shelter: mapping the effects of climate change on human migration and displacement. © 2008 by CARE International. Used by permission.
›A study published in Conservation Letters finds that emphasizing the ways the environment benefits the world’s poor “is a substantial improvement over dollar-based, ecosystem-service valuations that undervalue the requirements of the world’s poor” and “offers great hope for reconciling conservation and human development goals.”
NATO offers seven one-minute videos on environmental-security topics.
In Foreign Policy, Stephen Faris argues that melting Himalayan glaciers could make security problems in South and Central Asia even worse.
The Financial Times offers an extended look at environmental migration in Ghana.
The Arctic Climate Change and Security Policy Conference: Final Report and Findings, a report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, maintains that a multilateral process is the best way to minimize tensions over the Arctic.
›June 24, 2009 // By Wilson Center StaffThe second day of the Global Environmental Change and Human Security conference in Oslo illustrated the evolution of the environment, conflict, and security debate. The key discussion came from a panel entitled “Environmental Change, Conflicts, and Vulnerability in War-Torn Societies” that featured Ken Conca of the University of Maryland; David Jensen of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); and Arve Ofstad of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
In this short video, Geoff Dabelko, director of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and chair of the panel, notes that in the last 10 years, researchers and practitioners have moved from a nearly exclusive focus on the connections between environmental scarcity or abundance and conflict to a wider set of questions about environment’s roles all along the conflict continuum—including prevention, active conflict, conflict termination, and post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction. This wider agenda includes questions of cooperation and peacebuilding around environmental interdependence. Jensen’s UNEP post-conflict office directly engages these multiple environment-conflict connections, and he shared both practical lessons learned and concrete UN points of entry.
Dabelko also comments that human security, enunciated most prominently in the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report, has raised the profile of a wider set of vulnerabilities than those coming directly from the end of a gun. This more inclusive agenda brings livelihoods, human rights, and social and cultural values more squarely into the analysis of insecurity.
›June 24, 2009 // By Rachel Weisshaar
“I don’t know of an armed conflict that has got a single cause,” said International Alert Secretary General Dan Smith at an event sponsored by the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program on June 10, 2009. “Our argument is simply that climate change adds another major variable into that mix.” Smith was joined by Shruti Mehrotra, a senior consultant to International Alert on climate change, for a nuanced discussion of climate change’s potential impacts on global stability.
The Netherlands and Bangladesh: Capacity Matters
Both the Netherlands and Bangladesh are low-lying coastal countries vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events. Yet the Netherlands is “a wealthy country with stable government that’s transparent and accountable to the people,” said Smith. “A country like Bangladesh which is poor, which has got democracy but it’s a very iffy democracy—it’s really still in a state of transition—and which does not itself have the resources to handle those problems” could experience “great social pressure as a consequence of climate change,” he said.
Cascading Impacts: Water, Food, Livelihoods
Four hundred million people depend on the glacier-fed Ganges-Brahmaputra river system for water, food, and industry, said Smith. “A very large number of people’s livelihoods are going to be affected if water management in the Ganges-Brahmaputra area is not adequate to the task” of adapting to changing precipitation patterns and melting glaciers.
Seventy percent of Peruvians depend on glacial runoff for their water needs, according to Smith. But the Andean glaciers will essentially melt and disappear by 2015, meaning that an initial excess of water will be followed by a terrible deficit, said Smith. The impacts on Peruvian society will largely depend on how well the government, the private sector, and civil society mobilize to manage their water supply.
Scarce Resources: Migration and Conflict
Scarcer resources may lead to mass migration and conflict, said Smith, but he urged the audience to be wary of the “factoids and guesstimates being thrown around about how many people will migrate under the pressure of climate change.”
People sometimes move to avoid conflict, but “very often, unwittingly, they become the vector of conflict themselves,” said Smith. Most climate-induced migration is likely to be within a country or within a region, so “a lot of that migration is going to be people moving from areas which are no longer viable to areas which are barely viable—indeed, where their arrival threatens the viability of the area into which they’re moving,” he said.
According to International Alert’s report A climate of conflict: The links between climate change, peace and war, there are 46 countries that will be at high risk of violent conflict due to the intersecting impacts of climate change and economic, political, and social problems.
No matter what happens at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, people will need to adapt to the changes already underway in the climate system. But if adaptation is seen as a purely technical process, it will fail, said Smith. It is a cultural process that will only work if people have the chance to express their opinions and misgivings—and then buy into it.
“Most of development discourse is not being taken into account in these environmental negotiations,” said Mehrotra. Most climate negotiators are climate scientists or diplomats, not development practitioners. But in low-income countries, climate change will primarily be a development issue. “There is a potential that huge amounts of money will be put into this [adaptation], using a way of thinking about development from the 1970s,” warned Mehrotra.
Photos: Dan Smith and Shruti Mehrotra. Courtesy of David Hawxhurst and the Wilson Center.
Managing Environmental Conflict in Latin America: Resolution Rests on Inclusion, Communication, Development›June 23, 2009 // By Brian Klein
Public policies governing natural-resource extraction in Latin America “are often seen as arbitrary” and illegitimate by communities, said Mara Hernández, director of the Centro de Colaboración Cívica, A.C. – México, at the Wilson Center on June 3, 2009. Pablo Lumerman, director of Argentina’s Fundación Cambio Democrático, and Carlos Salazar, director of Socios Perú: Centro de Colaboración Cívica, joined Hernández to share methods of resolving environmental disputes. The event was co-sponsored by the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and Latin American Program and held in conjunction with Partners for Democratic Change.
The Balance of Power
Fashioning effective and equitable natural-resource policies requires the participation of all the relevant stakeholders, especially community members who are directly affected, Hernández contended. Consensus building must supplant unilateral decision-making by individual authorities, such as local or national governments.
For example, Fundación Cambio Democrático has successfully constructed a “Platform of Dialogue for Responsible Mining Development,” with the Argentinian government as an early and essential partner. The effort is an outgrowth of the organization’s Extractive Industries Program, which examines conflict over mining in Argentina.
Similarly, Salazar and Socios Perú have tried to ensure that the Peruvian government and companies operating in Peru build relationships with local communities from the moment they are interested in communities’ land, not just once a concession is secured.
However, Hernández believes that excluding government from the initial stages of consensus building can sometimes be advantageous. “Non-governmental organizations…are desperate for long-term solutions to their issues,” she said, while politicians “tend to have more short-term views and prefer quick fixes.”
When a conflict broke out in the Upper Sea of Cortez in 2005 between fishers and environmentalists over protection of the vaquita marina, a rare porpoise, Centro de Colaboración Cívica convened representatives from the community, NGOs, and corporations. The diverse stakeholders formed an organization called Alto Golfo Sustentable (“Sustainable Upper Gulf”), which successfully lobbied the Mexican government for better protection of the vaquita, improved monitoring of illegal fishing, and sounder management of marine resources.
Transparency and Communication
“Lack of clear and on-time information to the communities” has been a primary driver of conflict around extractive industries, said Salazar. Stakeholders will often disseminate their own information, Lumerman cautioned, with each accusing the other of bias.
A neutral, third-party information provider can mitigate disagreement. For example, in order “to develop a system of information of public access…for all the stakeholders,” Fundación Cambio Democrático is creating a mining conflict map of Argentina, said Lumerman.
Cultural Sensitivity and Sustainable Development
Members of local communities often have different worldviews than government elites or corporate representatives. “The land, the water, the air, the trees are more than only resources. They’re part of their lives,” said Salazar. “So, when a company comes to exploit these resources…the communities are really, really confused.”
Natural-resource extraction should be closely linked to the sustainable development of communities. Salazar emphasized that projects with a clear plan for “development, fighting against poverty, improving their way of life” are more likely to be met with approval. Lumerman cited the Cerro Vanguardia mining project as an example of a successful partnership that included local development into its long-term plan.
Top Photo: Heavy metal mine at La Oroya, Peru, one of the world’s most polluted places. Courtesy Flickr user Matthew Burpee.
Photos of Mara Hernández, Pablo Lumerman, and Carlos Salazar courtesy Dave Hawxhurst and the Woodrow Wilson Center.
›Simon Dalby, a geographer at Ottawa’s Carleton University, wants to put the “human” back into “human security” with his new book Security and Environmental Change. He is trying to find a common vocabulary to bridge the disparate languages of environmental science and security studies and enable them to mesh in a way that makes “intellectual sense.”
Dalby “argues that to understand climate change and the dislocations of global ecology, it is necessary to look back at how ecological change is tied to the expansion of the world economic system over the last few centuries. As the global urban system changes on a local and global scale, the world’s population becomes vulnerable in new ways.”
Environmental Change and Security Program Director Geoff Dabelko spoke with Dalby about his book outside the Global Environmental Change and Human Security conference in Oslo, Norway, where more than 160 experts and practitioners have gathered for three days of intense discussions.
›More than 150 experts from around the world are assembled this week in Oslo, Norway, for the capstone conference of the Global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS) Project. The conference features a mix of researchers and policymakers, who are debating the practical impacts of bringing a focus on people more firmly into discussions of global environmental change.
The Wilson Center’s Geoff Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program, is attending the conference, and in this video, he comments on three themes prominently discussed in the opening day of the conference: human security versus national security; climate change and migration; and practical avenues for incorporating human security research into the fifth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
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