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Key policy takeaways:
The nature of climate change challenges the dominant state-based understanding of ‘security’ in world politics. It is clear that current paradigms of global and national security policy have to evolve. Non-traditional security issues such as climate change and pandemics like COVID-19 have shown that security establishments can play an important role in terms of response. Enhanced information exchange between national defence establishments would also be necessary to address both traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
There are three narratives for securitization of climate change. The first narrative is linked to improved adaptation of military infrastructure as climate and environmental changes pose significant risks for the traditional security structures themselves. The second positions security establishments for disaster response to ensure that humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and non-combatant evacuation operations are provided on a timely basis. The third narrative positions the need for conflict mitigation as environmental degradation and climate change can lead to conflicts hence requiring traditional security structures. The last narrative needs more research evidence before it can be accepted by policy makers.
While designing a framework for climate change and security, caution should be exercised when trying to fit the novel challenge of climate change into the narrow framework of traditional security. The traditional frameworks for security is not an inclusive way of approaching climate change but then traditional security institutions cannot be discounted especially when it comes to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and non-combatant evacuation operations.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1625 of 2005 broadened the role of the Security Council functions by adding conflict prevention through addressing ‘root causes’ in its ambit. However, the limitations of the current institutional mechanisms and the capacity of the UNSC to deal with climate change can restrict the UNSC from playing the role in terms of functions required for climate change response.
Analysis of the UNSC open debates on climate change shows similar groupings and alliances as is seen in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change deliberations with the EU and small island states taking similar positions whereas the G77 countries take another. Among the permanent members, United Kingdom and France favour securitization of climate change while Russia and China have opposed and the United States of America has been ambiguous.
India is not a permanent member of the UNSC and thus like many other non-member countries, it would have a limited say in the UNSC if climate change is securitized. Moreover, inclusion of climate related intra-state conflicts and responsibility to protect (R2P) may invite undesired UNSC intervention.
Non-traditional security and environment is recognized in the Joint Doctrine of the Armed Forces of India, 2017. A clear defence strategy for climate change similar to the USA National Defence Authorization Act needs to be explored by India. Hot spot mapping could be initiated for the most climate vulnerable security infrastructure and installations. India also needs to examine geopolitical implications as a result of water scarcity; moreover, the opening of the Arctic sea lane due to glacial melts will have important geopolitical implications.
Technology and innovation are crucial to address climate related impacts and there are clear priority areas that the Indian defence sector should look at in the near future. There is a need for adaptation of defence equipment and gear to withstand temporal and climatic changes.