Koenders and Ploumen: ‘Climate change and security are intimately linked’

‘Climate change has a major impact on our security. We can no longer approach these two topics separately,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders at the opening of the first annual Planetary Security Conference on Monday. At the Conference, which took place on 2 and 3 November at the Peace Palace in The Hague, more than 300 participants from 75 countries discussed the impact of climate change on global security.

‘Our planet’s climate is changing fast. This has repercussions for our security. So it’s essential that we join forces worldwide in examining and responding to these impacts,’ the minister said.

According to Mr Koenders, major climatic changes can make fragile states and vulnerable regions even more unstable. ‘In my previous job as head of MINUSMA in Mali, I saw how the increasing drought in the Sahel spread and intensified poverty. Water shortages led to growing migration and tensions between the different groups in the region. From there, it’s only a small step to political instability.’

At the Peace Palace, academics, civil servants, security specialists and think-tank representatives talked about ways to control the security risks associated with climate change. Topics discussed during the first edition of the Conference included migration, drought, security in the Arctic, and the effects of sea-level rise on low-lying urban regions.

‘We need cooperation and knowledge-sharing between water experts and diplomats,’ the minister said, ‘so that we can learn from each other. It’s good to encourage experts from different fields to work together because it can result in new solutions to the anticipated problems of climate change.’

Foreign trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen will close the conference on 3 November by participating in a four-member panel, also comprising World Bank and think-tank officials, on the future of planetary security.

In December the Netherlands will participate in COP21, the UN climate conference in Paris which should lead to a new international climate agreement. The practical details of the new climate agreement will be worked out at Adaptation Futures, a conference being organised by the Netherlands in Rotterdam in May 2016.

‘Climate change should be a top priority for the international community. The Netherlands wants to take the lead in this. We are a low-lying country and are keenly aware of the importance of keeping our feet dry,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘We also have a lot of expertise in these fields, which we’d like to share with the rest of the world.’