The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Costs and Communication: Stumbling blocks in addressing Climate Change

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security and Natural Disasters by NTSblog on October 7, 2010
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The effects of climate change can be considered to be a non-traditional security (NTS) issue.  Unlike traditional security (military) issues, the effects of climate change are transnational in nature and threaten the security of individuals and communities. Such issues must be addressed by incorporating a multi-level and multi-stakeholder approach. However, this approach has been difficult to operationalise given the various concerns from different levels and sectors, as seen from the piecemeal outcome of UNFCCC Meeting in Copenhagen (COP15) in 2009. This essentially points to an issue of costs and communication. That said, two other international events could provide some room to facilitate improvement (albeit with their own set of weaknesses) – the recent Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) and 350.org’s Global Work Party on 10 October 2010. Here are the pros and cons of these events.

Room to Breathe

The main positive contribution from MEF and 350 is that these efforts are geared towards complementing global negotiations on climate change under the UNFCCC’s auspices. Since states had difficulty in agreeing on various clauses during COP15, the MEF – at the very least – could facilitiate better rapport amongst these countries.  The recent MEF meeting – held on the sidelines of the  United Nations General Assembly – was much more inclusive by extending invitations to non-members such  as Barbados, Egypt, Singapore, Spain and the United Nations.

As for 350.org’s Global Work Party, it provides space for civil society organisations (CSOs) to spread awareness and garner support for the issue across various sectors and levels . Disruption of COP15 proceedings by some CSOs did  nothing for their credibility. Rather than attempt to initiate change at an international meeting – where  the agenda has already been set  beforehand – CSOs  would stand a better chance at influencing the agenda back at home.  Hence, CSOs should put more efforts to lobby national governments, with an emphasis on effective collaboration with business communities. The Global Work Party thus provides the opportunity for CSOs to do so  with a transnational spirit, and thereby keeping the momentum up, despite failures at COP15.

Room for Improvement

That said, there are weaknesses. Firstly,  although a useful platform to voice country positions in a frank and tranparent manner, it still remains to be a talk-shop. Participants at the recent MEF could only come to broad agreements in principle, rather than being able to zone into details of how to effectively address climate change, particularly so for the issues of costs (climate financing). Secondly,  while open campaigning has been gaining ground, it still remains to be seen how effective such efforts would be in influencing policy circles, as seen in developments at COP15. It would certainly be a test for the Global Work Party to make in-roads to  negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

Clearly, ensuring a multi-level and multisector approach is easier said than done. It is nevertheless vital, if we are to make progress on one of the most transnational security issues to date.

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