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date: 22 April 2018

The Emergence of Environment as a Security Imperative

Summary and Keywords

The emergence of environment as a security imperative is something that could have been avoided. Early indications showed that if governments did not pay attention to critical environmental issues, these would move up the security agenda. As far back as the Club of Rome 1972 report, Limits to Growth, variables highlighted for policy makers included world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion, all of which impact how we live on this planet.

The term environmental security didn’t come into general use until the 2000s. It had its first substantive framing in 1977, with the Lester Brown Worldwatch Paper 14, “Redefining Security.” Brown argued that the traditional view of national security was based on the “assumption that the principal threat to security comes from other nations.” He went on to argue that future security “may now arise less from the relationship of nation to nation and more from the relationship between man to nature.”

Of the major documents to come out of the Earth Summit in 1992, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development is probably the first time governments have tried to frame environmental security. Principle 2 says: “States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national.”

In 1994, the UN Development Program defined Human Security into distinct categories, including:

• Economic security (assured and adequate basic incomes).

• Food security (physical and affordable access to food).

• Health security.

• Environmental security (access to safe water, clean air and non-degraded land).

By the time of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in 2002, water had begun to be identified as a security issue, first at the Rio+5 conference, and as a food security issue at the 1996 FAO Summit. In 2003, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a High-Level Panel on “Threats, Challenges, and Change,” to help the UN prevent and remove threats to peace. It started to lay down new concepts on collective security, identifying six clusters for member states to consider. These included economic and social threats, such as poverty, infectious disease, and environmental degradation.

By 2007, health was being recognized as a part of the environmental security discourse, with World Health Day celebrating “International Health Security (IHS).” In particular, it looked at emerging diseases, economic stability, international crises, humanitarian emergencies, and chemical, radioactive, and biological terror threats. Environmental and climate changes have a growing impact on health. The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified climate security as a key challenge for the 21st century. This was followed up in 2009 by the UCL-Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change—linking health and climate change.

In the run-up to Rio+20 and the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, the issue of the climate-food-water-energy nexus, or rather, inter-linkages, between these issues was highlighted. The dialogue on environmental security has moved from a fringe discussion to being central to our political discourse—this is because of the lack of implementation of previous international agreements.

Keywords: environmental security, nexus, health, climate, energy, food, water

Growing scarcities of renewable resources can contribute to social instability and civil strife.

(Homer-Dixon, Boutwell, & Rathjens, 1993)

The term environmental security didn’t come into general use until the 2000s. It had its first substantive framing in 1977, with the Lester Brown Worldwatch Paper 14 “Redefining National Security.” Brown argued that the traditional view of national security was based on the “assumption that the principal threat to security comes from other nations” (Brown, 1977). He went on to argue that future security “may now arise less from the relationship of nation to nation and more from the relationship between man to nature” (Brown, 1977).

Brown articulated this only five years after the first UN Conference on Human Environment (1972) which had one of the key inputs: The Club of Rome’s report on Limits to Growth. Limits to Growth identified five variables—world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion—that would impact how we live on this planet. The five variables were reviewed under three scenarios, two of which saw “overshoot and collapse” of the global system by the mid- to latter part of the 21st century. Only the third scenario would result in a “stabilized world” (Meadows, Meadows, Randers, & Behrens, 1972).

The issue of the world’s increasing population had become a critical issue in the late 1960s, as predictions saw the growth of a potential food crisis. Rates of population growth were the highest in the period 1965 to 1970, at 2.06% (United Nations, 2016). The green revolution in agriculture, with the adoption of new technologies that saw new high-yield varieties of cereals in association with chemical fertilizer and better water supply, went a long away to address those concerns.

Reviews of the scenarios by Graham Turner (2008), at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), found that three of the critical variables, industrial production, food production, and pollution, are all in line with one of the book’s three scenarios so far—that of “business as usual.”

In 2014, Turner concluded that “preparing for a collapsing global system could be even more important than trying to avoid collapse” (Turner, 2014).

In 2011, population and industrialization were identified as two of the three drivers of the nexus (food-water-energy-climate), the other being urbanization.

Oil Crisis

By 1977, governments were still reacting to the oil crisis caused by the Yom Kippur War (1973)— a war fought by a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel. The Organization of Petroleum Countries (OPEC) raised oil prices and reduced production until Israeli returned to its pre-1967 borders. Oil prices went from about $14 a barrel of oil in 1972 to $58 in 1974 (McGuire, 2015; and see Figure 1). OPEC also introduced an oil embargo against the United States and Europe.

The Emergence of Environment as a Security ImperativeClick to view larger

Figure 1. The history of crude oil prices.

Sources: Business Insider, BP, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, Money Morning Staff Research

The oil embargo resulted in an annual increase in the all food Consumer Price Index of around 8%, compared to around 2% per year from 2010 to 2013 (USDA, 2014). The embargo was lifted in March 1974, but oil prices remained high. The United States, in particular, looked for sources of energy other than fossil fuels. President Carter, on April 18, 1977, proposed a new energy policy:

Tonight, I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will, if we do not act quickly. It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.

He proposed ten principles for the United States in the area of energy. The tenth said:

The tenth principle is that we must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century.

(Carter, 1977)

He went on to propose “Use solar energy in more than two and one-half million houses” (Carter, 1977).

This background informed Lester Brown’s analysis later in 1977. He identified five areas that would frame the redefinition of National Security, which are still relevant today:

  1. 1. The lagging energy transition.

  2. 2. The deterioration of biological systems.

  3. 3. The threat of climate modification.

  4. 4. Global food insecurity.

  5. 5. The economic threats to security.

In the last years of the 1970s, oil prices increased further. This was caused by the Iranian Revolution and the Iran/Iraqi war, which started on September 22, 1980. By the end of 1980, prices reached over $100 a barrel.

Finally, Brown warned us:

In the late 20th century, the key to national security is sustainability. If the biological underpinnings of the global economic system cannot be secured, then the long-term economic outlook is grim indeed.

(Brown, 1977)

The price of oil came down in the 1980s, along with the pressure on politicians to address energy security towards alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind reseeded.

Ozone Depletion

In 1982, Joe Farmer from the British Antarctic Survey found a hole over the Antarctic in the ozone layer, showing over half of the ozone layer was gone. The loss of the ozone layer increases skin cancers and, if not dealt with, the loss would have impacts on agriculture, forestry, and natural ecosystems, impacting plant growth and adversely affecting plankton, which in turn impact the ocean ecosystem. Within three years there was an agreement at the UN Vienna Convention on ozone-depleting chemicals, followed in 1987 by the Montreal Protocol to the Convention, which came into force in January 1989.

Ten-Year Review of the Stockholm Declaration

Also in 1982, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) hosted the 10-year review of the Stockholm Declaration—the outcome from the 1972 Conference on Human Environment. It was clear that most of the problems since 1972 had not been adequately addressed, and new ones were being added. Environmental threats ranging from pollution, acid rain, deforestation, desertification, and the destruction of the ozone layer, to early signs of climate change, were the focus of those attending the UNEP Governing Council. A proposal to address both old and new challenges was put forth by the Canadian government. It suggested there should be a UN Commission on Environment and Development. Eighteen months later, in December 1983, the UN General Assembly agreed to set up a Commission:

8. Suggests that the Special Commission, when established, should focus mainly on the following terms of reference for its work:

  1. (a) To propose long-term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development to the year 2000 and beyond;

  2. (b) To recommend ways in which concern for the environment may be translated into greater co-operation among developing countries and between countries at different stages of economic and social development and lead to the achievement of common and mutually supportive objectives which take account of the interrelationships between people, resources, environment and development;

  3. (c) To consider ways and means by which the international community can deal more effectively with environmental concerns, in the light of the other recommendations in its report;

  4. (d) To help to define shared perceptions of long-term environmental issues and of the appropriate efforts needed to deal successfully with the problems of protecting and enhancing the environment, a long-term agenda for action during the coming decades, and aspirational goals for the world community, taking into account the relevant resolutions of the session of a special character of the Governing Council in 1982 (UN, 1983).

The outcome report “Our Common Future,” otherwise known as the “Brundtland Report,” is well known for being the first UN document to highlight the idea of sustainable development, which it defined in this fashion:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

(UN, 1987)

What is perhaps less well known is that the report also addressed the link between security and the environment. The Report said:

Few threats to peace and survival of the human community are greater than those posed by the prospects of cumulative and irreversible degradation of the biosphere on which human life depends. True security cannot be achieved by mounting buildup of weapons (defence in a narrow sense), but only by providing basic conditions for solving non-military problems which threaten them. Our survival depends not only on military balance, but on global cooperation to ensure a sustainable environment.

(UN, 1987)

The Brundtland Commission helped reestablish and amplify the links between security and environment.

Mikhail Gorbachev

In 1989, reacting to this success and the new challenge of climate change, Mikhail Gorbachev, then Chairman of the former Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, said:

The threat from the skies today is not so much nuclear missiles as ozone-layer depletion and global warming.

(Gorbachev, 1989)

The 1980s finished with a huge multilateral environmental success, with the UN action on the ozone layer, as mentioned above.

Gorbachev focused on environmental issues shortly after he stepped down as the last President of the Soviet Union. In January 1990, during an address to the Global Forum on Environment and Development for Survival, he brought up the idea of creating an organization that would be similar to the emergency response model of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The new organization would address ecological issues and expedite solutions to environmental problems that transcend national boundaries. As a result, Green Cross Intentional was formed after the UN Conference on Environment and Development, otherwise known as the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It focuses on issues such as environmental security and sustainability, in particular:

  • Nonproliferation, arms control, disarmament.

  • Weapons demilitarization.

  • Pollution reduction, toxic waste cleanup.

  • Environmental emergencies preparedness. (UN Environment Programme, 1992)

Rio Earth Summit

The Brundtland Report also recommended a new UN Conference to address the environment and development discourse. In December 1989, the UN General Assembly agreed to a UN Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992, to occur 20 years from the first conference on human environment.

The Rio Earth Summit (UN Environment Programme, 1992) agreed upon a number of key documents that, in different ways, recognized and addressed the issue of environment security. The two conventions agreed upon were the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), together with the Rio Declaration and the main text Agenda 21—the blueprint for sustainable development. In different ways, they all dealt with aspects of environmental security, clearly building on the work undertaken by the Brundtland Report.

The Rio Declaration Principle 2 says:

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national.

(UN Environment Programme, 1992)

Agenda 21 had no chapter on Energy, however, because the United States and OPEC countries fought to ensure that was the case. But there were four chapters that highlighted food security as a critical issue for the future.

Box 1. Food Security in Agenda 21

In Chapter 3 Combatting Poverty:

“3.8.l. Undertake activities aimed at the promotion of food security and, where appropriate, food self-sufficiency within the context of sustainable agriculture.” (UN, 1992)

In Chapter 12 Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Combating Desertification And Drought:

“12.19.b. Develop, test and introduce, with due regard to environmental security considerations, drought resistant, fast-growing and productive plant species appropriate to the environment of the regions concerned.” (UN, 1992)

In Chapter 14 Promoting Sustainable Agriculture And Rural Development Chapter:

“14.4.a Section a. Agricultural policy re view, planning and integrated programmes in the light of the multifunctional aspect of agriculture, particularly with regard to food security and sustainable development.” (UN, 1992)

And in particular:

“14.8 objective

b. To maintain and develop, as appropriate, operational multisectoral plans, programmes and policy measures, including programmes and measures to enhance sustainable food production and food security within the framework of sustainable development, not later than 1998;” (UN, 1992)

In Chapter 16 Environmentally Sound Management Of Biotechnology:

“16.5. Acceleration of technology acquisition, transfer and adaptation by developing countries to support national activities that promote food security, through the development of systems for substantial and sustainable productivity increases that do not damage or endanger local ecosystems;” (UN, 1992)

Human Development Report

In 1992, after the Rio Earth Summit, Gus Speth, who had founded the World Resources Institute (WRI) in 1982, became the new Administrator of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and refocused the organization to address “Sustainable Human Development,” which he defined this way:

Sustainable human development is development that not only generates economic growth but distributes its benefits equitably; that regenerates the environment rather than destroying it; that empowers people rather than marginalizing them. It is development that gives priority to the poor, enlarging their choices and opportunities and providing for their participation in decisions that affect their lives. It is development that is pro-people, pro-nature, pro-jobs and pro-women.

(UNDP, 1994)

One of UNDPs most respected publications is its annual Human Development Report. This was first launched in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and Indian Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

The 1994 Human Development Report focused on the topic of “Human Security.” The Report defined Human Security in seven distinct categories:

  1. 1. Economic security (assured and adequate basic incomes).

  2. 2. Food security (physical and affordable access to food).

  3. 3. Health security.

  4. 4. Environmental security (access to safe water, clean air and non-degraded land).

  5. 5. Personal security (physical violence).

  6. 6. Community security (ethnic violence).

  7. 7. Political security (basic human rights and freedoms) (UNDP, 1994).

NATO and the Strategic Studies Institute

In late 1994, the Strategic Studies Institute at the US Army War College also began to address the issue of environmental security when it produced a paper called NATO Contributions to European Environmental Security. In the Foreword, Colonel John W. Mountcastle, Director of Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), said:

Environmental issues are promoting instability and conflict at an increasing rate. Forward-thinking interactional security strategists are suggesting that these catalytic issues be addressed before they lead to costly conflict. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has committed itself to using DOD assets to address environmental problems that could contribute to instability. This study builds upon these visionary concepts to recommend that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) develop an environmental security assistance program to address environmental issues that threaten stability in regions strategically important to European security.

With NATO searching for a new mission to demonstrate its relevance in the post-cold war era, the concept of a NATO environmental security assistance program has great potential benefit. Such a program would also demonstrate how the new Alliance Strategic Concept can be executed, while helping to mitigate significant and well-publicized environmental problems. This would allow NATO to promote military to military contacts and enhance communication with former adversaries.

The Strategic Studies Institute is pleased to publish this monograph as a contribution to the debate on European security issues.

(Mountcastle, 1993)

NATO would continue to look at environmental security through the 1990s and into the 21st century with a series of workshops and conferences. In the late 1990s, a number of other institutions would also start to address environmental security.

Millennium Project

In 1996, the United Nations University (UNU), the Smithsonian Institute, Futures Group International, and the American Council of UNU set up the Millennium Project (MP). It would address 15 global challenges, one of which was peace and conflict. This resulted in work on environmental security. When the Millennium Project Report came out in 2001, it gave the following definition:

Environmental security is the relative public safety from environmental dangers caused by natural or human processes due to ignorance, accident, mismanagement or design and originating within or across national borders.

(Millennium Project, 2001)

Rome Food Summit

Later, in 1996, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hosted the first World Food Summit, resulting in the “Rome Declaration on World Food Security.” The Declaration reinforced the link between security and food and challenged governments to address this by 2015. It said:

We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015.

We emphasize the urgency of taking action now to fulfill our responsibility to achieve food security for present and future generations. Attaining food security is a complex task for which the primary responsibility rests with individual governments. They have to develop an enabling environment and have policies that ensure peace, as well as social, political and economic stability and equity and gender equality. We express our deep concern over the persistence of hunger which, on such a scale, constitutes a threat both to national societies and, through a variety of ways, to the stability of the international community itself.

(FAO, 1996)

Five-Year Review of Agenda 21

At the Five-Year Review of Agenda 21 (Rio+5) in 1997, one of the most controversial issues was water security. On this planet, there are 263 international river basins and, according to UNESCO, 145 nations have territory within a trans-boundary basin (UNESCO, 2006).

The demand for water in the world increased over the 20th century by a factor of six. During the Rio+5 preparatory process, The Times of London underlined this as a present and future threat when it published a two-page article by environment journalist Nick Nuttall under the heading “The Water Wars” predicting that conflicts would increase over the coming decades because of water scarcity.

The outcome text from Rio+5 itself was not without conflict. In the final session, Turkey and a number of East African countries, which had transboundary water issues, entered reservations on this point (Osborn & Bigg, 1998). The outcome document said:

35. Considering the urgent need for action in the field of fresh water, and building on existing principles and instruments, arrangements, programmes of action, and customary uses of water.

(UN, 1997)

The issues of water and food security started to become central to at least the sustainable development discourse as a serious emerging issue. This was predicted by Lester Brown in 1977.

Environmental security was to be addressed after the Rio+5 Conference by Maurice Strong, the Secretary General of the 1972 UN Human Environment Conference and the 1992 UN Earth Summit, who some would say, was the father of sustainable development. In an article in the Harvard International Review, he focused on the increasing link of environment and security and in particular focused on the issue of energy security when he said:

It is the gross imbalances and distortions in the economic life and behaviour of developed countries that have given rise to the environmental risks the world now confronts. The key to the future security of both the energy industry and the environment is in focusing on the inter-relationship between the two. It is only through changes in economic management and behaviour and through the use of innovative financial mechanisms that a secure and sustainable balance can be struck between economic, environmental, and social needs and aspirations.

(Strong, 1997)

In the late 1990s, Margaret Brusasco-Mackenzie was head of International Affairs and Trade and Environment in the Environmental Directorate General of the European Commission (EC). In 2000, she joined Stakeholder Forum as its new Vice Chair and contributed a chapter on “Environment and Security” to the book Earth Summit 2002: A New Deal, which published in September 2000 for the 8th Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers held in Bergan Norway.

Traditional concepts of security have been centered around the state, with the maintenance of state sovereignty as its cornerstone related to military and armed conflict. The definition has recently been widened to include environmental degradation of resources, especially of non-renewable resources, as well as a rising scarcity of resources deemed vital to the security of individual nations . . . a rethinking of the traditional concept of security should address the relationship between the individual and the environment as well as the state and the environment. In turn a more proactive and preventative approach to environmental problems needs to be adopted, which looks at the causes rather than simply dealing with the consequences. Sustainable development has a central role in promoting the long term good of the environment and of the individual’s security.

(Brusasco-Mackenzie, 2000)

On September 3 and 4, 2001, the Japanese government hosted an International Eminent Persons Meeting with the United Nations University on “Inter-Linkages: Bridging Problems and Solutions to Work Towards Sustainable Development.” At the meeting, Strong raised the idea that the coming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) should focus on earth security.

In preparation for the WSSD, US Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell, echoed Strong’s comments from the previous year when he spoke, on July 2002, to a US State Department Conference:

Sustainable development is also a security imperative. Poverty, environmental degradation and despair are destroyers—of people, of societies, of nations. This unholy trinity can destabilize countries, even entire regions.

(Powell, 2002)

The preparations for WSSD accelerated the interest in refining security to include parts of the sustainable development agenda. The terror attack on September 11, 2001, changed the whole global agenda overnight. Security became synonymous with attacking terrorists. There was no ongoing space for continuing the conversation on how we might together address the challenges that were growing in and around the environmental security discourse.

After 9/11 and prior to WSSD, the Heinrich Boell Stiftung: The Green Political Foundation and Stakeholder Forum had organized an online discussion on the “impact of the September 11 attacks and subsequent war on the Earth Summit 2002 process.” Some of the contributions focused on why people had turned to so much violence and suggested that the agenda of the Johannesburg Summit will have to reflect the new realities after September 11 and put more emphasis on poverty eradication and social equity:

We have to reach beyond easy rhetoric like “poverty reduction”, and “development,” and talk instead about “inequality,” and the need for the global redistribution of wealth as the precondition of any real turn towards sustainability culture.

(Enayati, 2001)

WSSD did not focus on the environmental security discourse as Strong had suggested, but it did recognize the significance of the issue. In addition to sections relating to water and food security, it also said:

5. Peace, security, stability and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, as well as respect for cultural diversity, are essential for achieving sustainable development and ensuring that sustainable development benefits all.

(UN, 2002)

Here it echoed the Rio Declaration from 1992 but then went further by suggesting:

47. At the same time, there remain serious challenges, including serious financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion, and inequality within and among societies.

(UN, 2002)

This was a prediction that would come true within six years of the Summit.

After WSSD

In 2003, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, to help the UN prevent and remove threats to peace. He and his team hoped to broaden the discourse again.

The Institute for Environmental Security (established in 2002) took up the theme in their conference “The Hague Conference in Environment, Security, and Sustainable Development (2004).” The conference was supported by 131 senior decision makers and representatives from governments, intergovernmental organizations, foundations, and stakeholders. Professor Norman Myers Special Advisor to the Conference in his briefing note said:

National security is no longer about fighting forces and weaponry alone. It relates increasingly to watersheds, forests, soil cover, croplands, genetic resources, climate, and other factors rarely considered by military experts and political leaders, but that taken together deserve to be viewed as equally crucial to a nation's security as military prowess.

(Myers, 2004)

The ultimate objective of the conference and its follow-up was to promote more sustainable relationships between people, their environment, and the natural resources they depend on for their well-being on the basis of precaution, equity, efficiency, and choice. This can be achieved with better understanding of the relationship between environment and security, and how this relationship affects sustainable development.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

In the mid-1990s, many scientists and policy makers who were involved with one of the scientific assessments such as the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) and around the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer realized that there wasn’t a full ecosystem assessment. In 1998, a panel of 40 scientists working with NASA, UNEP, and the World Bank produced a draft international assessment, “Protecting Our Planet, Securing Our Future: Linkages Among Global Environmental Issues and Human Needs.” The report called for “a more integrated assessment process for selected scientific issues, a process that can highlight the linkages between questions relating to climate, biodiversity, desertification, and forest issues” (MEA, 2005).

The Ecosystem and Human Well-Being Synthesis Report, summarized in Figure 2:

depicts the strength of linkages between categories of ecosystem services and components of human well-being that are commonly encountered, and includes indications of the extent to which it is possible for socioeconomic factors to mediate the linkage. (For example, if it is possible to purchase a substitute for a degraded ecosystem service, then there is a high potential for mediation.) The strength of the linkages and the potential for mediation differ in different ecosystems and regions. In addition to the influence of ecosystem services on human well being depicted here, other factors—including other environmental factors as well as economic, social, technological, and cultural factors—influence human well being, and ecosystems are in turn affected by changes in human well being.

(UN, 2005b)

The Emergence of Environment as a Security ImperativeClick to view larger

Figure 2. Linkages between ecosystem services and human well being.

Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The Report (see Figure 3) said that:

changes in drivers that indirectly affect biodiversity, such as population, technology, and lifestyle (upper right corner of Figure), can lead to changes in drivers directly affecting biodiversity, such as the catch of fish or the application of fertilizers (lower right corner). These result in changes to ecosystems and the services they provide (lower left corner), thereby affecting human well-being. These interactions can take place at more than one scale and can cross scales. For example, an international demand for timber may lead to a regional loss of forest cover, which increases flood magnitude along a local stretch of a river. Similarly, the interactions can take place across different time scales. Different strategies and interventions can be applied at many points in this framework to enhance human well-being and conserve ecosystems.

(MEA, 2005)

The Emergence of Environment as a Security ImperativeClick to view larger

Figure 3. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: conceptual framework of interactions between biodiversity, ecosystem services, human well being, and drivers of change

Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change Report

The UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change: A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility report (2005) recognized that:

The United Nations was created in 1945 above all else “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”—to ensure that the horrors of the World Wars were never repeated.

(UN, 2005a)

It started to lay down new concepts on collective security identifying six clusters for member states to consider. These were:

  • Economic and social threats, including poverty, infectious disease, and environmental degradation.

  • Inter-State conflict.

  • Internal conflict, including civil war, genocide, and other large-scale atrocities.

  • Nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological weapons.

  • Terrorism.

  • Transnational organized crime.

Parallel to the production of the report, Felix Dodds (Stakeholder Forum) and Tim Pippard (IHS Jane’s) brought together a number of key people, including members of the High Level Panel, to look into the subject in more depth in a book called Human and Environmental Security: An Agenda for Change. The book was published for the September Heads of State World Summit 2005.

In the Introduction to the book, by the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim said:

The moment is therefore ripe for a discussion of the relationship between environment and security. However, we must be careful to bear in mind that concepts such as human and environmental security raise issues that go well beyond incorporating into governmental decision-making process considerations regarding conflicts that could arise from the use of environmental resources or from environmental degradation. These notions also beg the far more difficult questions of whether environmental reasons can be invoked as a threat to international peace and security. They also have implications for the role of diplomacy.

(Amorim, 2005)

In Larger Freedom: Towards Development Security and Human Rights for All

The response to the Panel’s Report, the Secretary General produced his report “In Larger Freedom: Towards Development Security and Human Rights for All.” The term “in larger freedom” is one that appears in two of the most significant UN documents, the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the report, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan notes:

I argue that we will not enjoy development without security, or security without development. But I also stress that we will not enjoy either without universal respect for human rights.

(Annan, 2005)

The report was broken into four parts:

  1. 1. Freedom from Want—this focused on asking development countries to develop their Millennium Development Goals strategy. It asked Member States to agree to mobilize scientific and technological innovation to address climate change.

  2. 2. Freedom from Fear—focused on urging Member States to agree on a new security consensus and to establish a Peacebuilding Commission.

  3. 3. Freedom to Live in Dignity—this focused on strengthening the rule of law, human rights, and democracy, and on embracing the principle of “Responsibility to Protect.”

  4. 4. Strengthening the United Nations—this called for the revitalization of the General Assembly and to making the Security Council more broadly representative (Annan, 2005).

The report started to include the environment in the outline on Human Security.

Human Security Report Project

Andrew Mack, who had been Director of Strategic Planning Office of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, set up a Human Security Report Project in 2003. The approach was very similar to the UNDP Human Development Report (HDR), but this time very independent from the UN. The Project took the more traditional and more narrow view of human security, stating that it has a “focus on violent threats to individuals and communities” (Human Security Report Project, 2006).

And the more “broad definition outlined in the 1994 HDR argue that hunger, disease, pollution, affronts to human dignity, threats to livelihoods, and other harms, in addition to violence, should all be considered human security issues” (Human Security Report Project, 2006). The Project produced six reports over the coming years, the first coming out in time for the World Summit 2005.

World Summit 2005

In September, the World Summit 2005 did not fully develop the six themes from the High Level Panel. It suggested that more work was needed and said governments were not ready to move from a traditional way of viewing security to include the environment.

143. We stress the right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair. We recognize that all individuals, in particular vulnerable people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential. To this end, we commit ourselves to discussing and defining the notion of human security in the General Assembly.

(UN, 2005b)

The Madrid Declaration

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) exists to address:

the wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism, and economic and environmental activities. All 57 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis.

(OSCE, 2016)

In 2007, OSCE held its 15th ministerial council in Madrid, and the declaration that was produced called for an intensified cooperation in the areas of environment and security in the OSCE region. The declaration acknowledges that environmental factors such as soil degradation and climate change can be potential additional contributors to conflict, and it signals that environmental cooperation could be a useful tool in diminishing tensions and preventing conflicts. The declaration includes the following:

2. Environmental degradation, including both natural and man-made disasters, and their possible impact on migratory pressures, could be a potential additional contributor to conflict.

Climate change may magnify these environmental challenges.

3. Environmental co-operation and the promotion of early warning could be useful tools in diminishing tensions as part of a broader effort to prevent conflict, build mutual confidence, and promote good neighbourly relations.

(OSCE, 2007)

Role of Health in the Environmental Security Discourse

By 2007, health was being recognized as a part of the Environmental Security discourse, with World Health Day celebrating “International Health Security (IHS).” The WHO background briefing document for March 27 identified a number of critical issues under the term IHS these were:

  • Emerging diseases: new, highly contagious diseases, such as SARS and avian influenza, know no borders. Their potential to cause international harm means that outbreaks cannot be treated as purely national issues. In the last few decades, new diseases began emerging at an unprecedented rate of one or more per year.

  • Economic stability: public health dangers have economic as well as health consequences. Containing international threats is good for economic well being. With fewer than 10,000 cases, SARS cost Asian countries US $60 billion of gross expenditure and business losses in the second quarter of 2003 alone.

  • International crises and humanitarian emergencies: these events kill and maim individuals and severely stress the health systems that people rely on for personal health security. In 2006, 134.6 million people were affected, and 21,342 were killed by natural disasters.

  • Chemical, radioactive, and biological terror threats: whether deliberate or accidental, WHO’s global networks are well placed to respond to the health effects of these threats using the same techniques employed in other disasters—rapid assessment and response, triage and treatment, securing water, food and sanitation systems. Anthrax-tainted letters sent through the U.S. postal system in 2001 and the release of sarin on the Tokyo subway in 1995 remind us that, although chemical and biological attacks are rare, there are people ready to use this brand of terrorism.

  • Environmental change: environmental and climate changes have a growing impact on health, but health policies alone cannot prevent their effects. People are dying—upwards of 60,000 in recent years in climate-related natural disasters, mainly in developing countries.

  • HIV/AIDS—a key health and security issue: the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, demonstrated to international security specialists the potential impact of a public health issue on security. In 2006, an estimated 39.5 million people were living with HIV/AIDS.

  • Building health security: national compliance with the revised IHR 2005 will underpin international health security.

  • Strengthening health systems: functioning health systems are the bedrock of health security, but the current state of systems worldwide is inadequate. As an example, the world is currently short of more than four million health workers, with the impact most felt in developing countries (WHO, 2007).

Climate Security

Also in 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was the most detailed review on climate change to date, with over 6,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies. The significant finding was that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” On April 17, 2007, in response to the report findings, the United Kingdom, which held the presidency of the UN Security Council, brought the issue of climate change to the Council for the first time.

One view, pronounced by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, and supported by EU colleagues, was that the Security Council’s mandate to address issues that threaten international peace and security was indeed broad enough to encompass the impacts of climate change. “What makes wars start?” she asked. “Fights over water, changing patterns of rainfall, fights over food production, land use . . . There are few greater potential threats to our economies too . . . but also to peace and security itself” (Dodds & Sherman, 2007).

In a May 18, 2007 article on the BBC web site, Felix Dodds and Richard Sherman argued:

There is no question that we are starting to discuss a new paradigm of human and environmental security, of which climate and energy security is an important part—but not the only part.

Health epidemics, post-conflict reconstruction, nuclear weapons, migration, population growth, unsustainable consumption, poverty, and trade are all also part of the discussion we need to look at through this new lens.

The question is not whether climate change is a threat to international peace and security, but more about how and where the world should have a discussion on addressing these issues creatively.

(Dodds & Sherman, 2007)

The Solana Report and European Council Decision

Following up the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), The EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, produced the report “Climate Change and International Security.” The report focused on the security risks posed by climate change for the European Council meeting of March 13–14 2008.

Climate change is best viewed as a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing trends, tensions and instability. The core challenge is that climate change threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone. It is important to recognise that the risks are not just of a humanitarian nature; they also include political and security risks that directly affect European interests. Moreover, in line with the concept of human security, it is clear that many issues related to the impact of climate change on international security are interlinked requiring comprehensive policy responses. For example, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals would be at considerable risk because climate change, if unmitigated, may well wipe out years of development efforts.

(EU, 2008)

The report identified actions that should be developed in the future. This included intensifying EU capacities for research, analysis, and monitoring to provide early warning of any growing tensions over resources and energy supplies, environmental and socio-economic stresses, threats to critical infrastructures and economic assets, border disputes, impact on human rights and potential migratory movements. It also identified the need to consider environmentally triggered additional migratory stress in the further development of a comprehensive European migration policy, It suggested that all relevant international bodies examine the security implications of climate change in dialogue with third counties and share the analysis with them.

Climate Change and Health

The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, described climate change as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” in the report of its 2009 Commission on Climate Change.

UCL–Lancet Commission of Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change (2009) finds that:

climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century recent scientific findings on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature, sea-level rise, ice sheets, ocean acidification and extreme climatic events suggest that the 2007 climate forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may be too conservative the UK government target, to limit global warming to a relatively safe level of 2 degrees, is unlikely to be achieved. Temperature rises above 2 degrees will increase the level of climate disruption through the 21st century and might lead to abrupt, severe and irreversible changes in climate.

(UCL-Lancet, 2009)

Climate change will have devastating consequences for human health from:

changing patterns of infections and insect-borne diseases, and increased deaths due to heat waves reduced water and food security, leading to malnutrition and diarrhoeal disease an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme climate events (hurricanes, cyclones, storm surges) causing flooding and direct injury increasing vulnerability for those living in urban slums and where shelter and human settlements are poor large scale population migration and the likelihood of civil unrest.

(UCL-Lancet, 2009)

UNFCCC and Water Security

In preparation for the Copenhagen 2009 UN Framework Convention Climate Change Conference, water stakeholders and water ministries were becoming increasingly concerned that water issues were not being addressed in the climate meetings. They argued that water was a crosscutting issue and that it had a role in both mitigation and adaptation. They formed the Water and Climate Coalition with the Stockholm International Water Institute and Stakeholder Forum acting as secretariat, and by the time of the Cancun Climate Conference in 2010, they had persuaded governments that people would feel the impact of climate change most strongly through changes in the distribution of water around the world and its seasonal and annual variability.

The UN Framework Convention, they argued, is a critical tool in promoting cooperation between states on the use of trans-boundary water resources, which are coming under mounting pressure due to the ever increasing demand for water resources for agricultural and industrial uses as well as for basic human needs.

It is clear that climate change will exacerbate this situation due to changes in the hydrological cycle, which will alter water availability around the world and pose a further challenge to the achievement of water security. In this context, managing water within national boundaries will not be sufficient unless complemented by trans-boundary water management on the basis of the applicable international law. The arguments had been supported in the AR4 Technical Paper on Water and Climate Change.

The Nexus: Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus

The German government held meetings and workshops in 2009 and 2010 at the Stockholm World Water Week to investigate if and on what they might make a contribution to the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Conference).

The World Economic Forum started working on ways to manage water needs and the challenges that would be faced. In the foreword to its 2011 publication on Water Security, Margaret Catley-Carlson, vice-chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on water security said:

“if business as usual” water management practices continue for another two decades, large parts of the world will face a serious and structural threat to economic growth, human well-being, and national security.

But there are alternatives to “business as usual.”

(Catley-Carson, 2011)

The German Government organized a number of key intergovernmental conferences over the previous decade. These included the Bonn Water Conference (2001) for input to the WSSD, the Bonn Energy Conference (2005) for input to the World Summit 2005, and now the Bonn Nexus Conference (2011) for input into the Rio+20 process. This conference focuses on the interlinkages of the water, energy, and food sectors and the increase in security concerns that were emerging. In 2011:

  • About 0.9 billion people lack access to safe drinking water.

  • 2.6 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation.

  • 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity.

  • 2.7 billion have no access to modern energy (Bonn2011, 2011).

The drivers for impacting future security include an additional one billion people, expected by 2030, changing consumption patterns in the newly developed countries (e.g. China, India, Brazil, and South Africa), and the rapid move toward an urban planet, with now over 50% of people living in urban areas and the expectation this will increase to 60% by 2030. These drivers were going to have an impact on the energy and food needed while at the same time water availability is going down. This is in part due to development but also due to climate change.

The conference identified the need for tradeoffs between the different sectors to reduce the accelerated ecosystem degradation but also to minimize conflict as water, in particular, becomes critical to the survival of communities. As it reminded negotiators for Rio+20:

The specific message from Bonn 2011 is clear:

outcomes of Rio + 20 in June 2012 should adequately take into account and address the interdependencies between water, energy and food and act upon the challenge to make the nexus work for the poor and for all of us. The nexus approach is very much at the heart of the overall challenge of transforming our economies to green economies by changing growth patterns to become more sustainable.

Making this happen will require governments to identify the forces that are driving the adoption of a nexus approach and to build alliances with them; this includes supporting leaders and champions at every level to take ownership and to develop the business case for integrated and sustainable solutions.

Considering any change of approach is a particular challenge in today’s economic climate. Yet the consequences of inaction will progressively limit our ability to deliver on our commitments and result in increasingly severe consequences for people’s welfare, economic growth, jobs, and the environment.

The costs of inaction are too high. We need to act now.

(Bonn2011, 2011)


The main areas that the Rio+20 Conference focused on were: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development. In addition to these themes, seven priority areas that were identified: cities, water, energy, food, disaster relief, jobs, and oceans.

The number of priority areas grew from seven to 16 during the preparatory process. However, with the input from events such as the Bonn Nexus Conference and the ongoing discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals, it became increasingly obvious that the failure of WSSD in 2002, and the lack of implementation of much of the 1992 Rio, Earth Summit Agenda 21, resulted in an increased link between environment and security. (Twelve of 16 would become 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): poverty eradication; food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture; water and sanitation; energy; sustainable cities and human settlements; health and population; oceans and seas; climate change; biodiversity; sustainable consumption and production; education, and gender equality and women’s empowerment.)

The Rio+20 Conference recognized this increased political concern in the area of human and environmental security. The Outcome document “The Future We Want” said:

27. We are deeply concerned that one in five people on this planet, or over 1 billion people, still live in extreme poverty, and that one in seven—or 14 per cent—is undernourished, while public health challenges, including pandemics and epidemics, remain omnipresent threats. In this context, we note the ongoing discussions in the General Assembly on human security. We acknowledge that with the world’s population projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, with an estimated two thirds living in cities, we need to increase our efforts to achieve sustainable development and, in particular, the eradication of poverty, hunger, and preventable diseases.”

(UN, 2012)

The outcome text went so far as to have a section on food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture, and dealt with it extensively in the oceans and seas, the climate change, the biodiversity, the desertification, land degradation and drought sections.

Tarand Report

The follow up to the Solana Report happened with the European Parliament in October 2012. Indrek Tarand, acting as Rapporteur, produced for the Committee on Foreign Affairs the report on the role of the Common Security and Defence Policy, in case of climate-driven crises and natural disasters. The report took note of many key events addressed by the issue of environmental security, while focusing on those that were key with the EU. This included the Council conclusions on EU Climate Diplomacy of July 18, 2011, and the EEAS-COM Joint Reflection Paper on Climate Diplomacy of July 2011, as well as the Solana Report.

It points out that:

natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change, are highly destabilising, particularly for vulnerable states; notes, however, that so far no case of conflict can be exclusively attributed to climate change; stresses that populations with deteriorating access to freshwater and foodstuffs caused by natural catastrophes exacerbated by climate change are forced to migrate, thus overstretching the economic, social and administrative capabilities of already fragile regions or failing states, thereby creating conflict and having a negative impact on overall security; recalls that these events create competition between communities and countries for scarce resources.

(EP, 2012)

The report had some important recommendations, including the creation of a UN special envoy for climate security. It also suggested that the European External Action Service (EEAS) advocate for consideration of climate change and environment protection aspects in the planning and implementation of military, civil-military, and that the EU examine the security implications of climate change in dialogue with third countries, especially with key partners such as India, China, and Russia; the report stresses that a truly effective response will require a multilateral approach and joint investment with third countries, and that the EU could build cooperation with third country militaries with joint development, and training missions and civilian operations worldwide (EP, 2012).

Sustainable Development Goals

After the Rio+20 conference, the process to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was being undertaken through two processes. The first was initiated by the UN through the UN Secretary General and the UN Development Group. This included a High Level Panel, over 100 national consultations, and 11 thematic consultations (inequalities, health, education, growth and employment, environmental security, food security and nutrition, governance, conflict, violence and disaster, population dynamics, water, and energy). The second was the intergovernmental process set up by Rio+20 and is known as the Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group.

A major dialogue would take place on whether:

  • The replacements for the MDGs would be broader and address ALL countries and not only developing countries.

  • They address the root causes of the problems or just the symptoms, which the MDGs had done.

  • They would be critical to the environmental security discourses, and would they address the interlinkages.

High Level Panel to Advise on the Global Development Framework Beyond 2015

In July 2012, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the 27 members of a high-level panel to advise on the global development framework beyond 2015, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The panel was co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, and included leaders from civil society, private sector, and government.

The panel held three meetings in London, Bali, and Monrovia, and the final report was produced by the end of May 2013. “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development” contained a number of references to the issues of human and environmental security. In its introduction it said: “This means it is now possible to leave no one behind—to give every child a fair chance in life, and to achieve a pattern of development where dignity and human rights become a reality for all, where an agenda can be built around human security” (UN, 2014a). The report addressed issues around human and environmental security particularly, in these goals:

  • · Goal 5. Ensure Food Security and Good Nutrition

  • · Goal 6. Achieve Universal Access to Water and Sanitation

  • · Goal 7. Secure Sustainable Energy

  • · Goal 9. Manage Natural Resource Assets Sustainably

Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group

One of the key outcomes of Rio+20 was the establishment of the Intergovernmental Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This had 70 countries working together sharing 30 seats. The OWG SDG worked from 2013 to July 2014 and resulted in 17 goals and 169 targets. It enabled an effective and constructive discussion on the interlinkages between sectors, which could positively influence environmental security concerns in the future.

Chapel Hill Nexus Conference 2014

As a continuation of the interlinkage dialogue in March 2013, many of the advisory board that had been engaged in the 2011 Bonn Nexus Conference wanted to ensure that an interlinkage approach to the SDGs would be part of the discourse. They saw that there is no place in an interlinked world for isolated solutions aimed at just one sector. They can often have fatal consequences in other sectors. If the world is going to reduce hunger and eradicate poverty, then achieving security for water, energy, and food for people is critical. The challenge ahead is that:

  • Agriculture will have to produce 70% more food by 2050.

  • Primary energy needs will increase by 50% by 2035.

  • Demand for water will exceed global availability by 40% in 2030. (SEI, 2011)

The Declaration from Chapel Hill 2014 underlined that “The world is a single complex system in which all the parts and subsystems constantly interact. Global problems such as persistent poverty and climate change should be viewed from this perspective and solutions and policy interventions should be sought that are beneficial for the system as a whole” (Water Institute, 2014).

Sustainable Development Goals Agreed

On July 19, 2014, after an all-night session, the SDGs were agreed upon. Three of the goals would deal with aspects of the Human and Environmental Security Agenda:

  • · Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

  • · Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

  • · Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all (UN, 2014b).

These would now be handed through to the formal negotiations, which would start in January 2015.

NATO and Climate Change

In early September, Heads of State of NATO countries gathered in Wales. The 2014 NATO Summit declared that climate change will shape the future security environment. The Wales Summit Declaration confirmed that climate change was, in fact, a part of that readiness challenge. As noted on point 110:

Key environmental and resource constraints, including health risks, climate change, water scarcity, and increasing energy needs will further shape the future security environment in areas of concern to NATO and have the potential to significantly affect NATO planning and operations.

(NATO, 2014a)

According to NATOs web site, its current activities related to the natural environment include:

  • Protecting the environment from damaging effects of military operations.

  • Promoting environmentally friendly management practices in training areas and during operations.

  • Adapting military assets to a hostile physical environment.

  • Preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters.

  • Addressing the impact of climate change.

  • Educating NATO’s officers on all aspects of environmental challenges.

  • Supporting partner countries in building local capabilities.

  • Enhancing energy efficiency and fossil fuel independence.

  • Building environmentally friendly infrastructures.

All these activities fall under two broad categories:

  1. 1. Environmental protection: Protecting the physical and natural environment from the harmful and detrimental impact of military activities.

  2. 2. Environmental security: Addressing security challenges emanating from the physical and natural environment (NATO, 2014b).

This was also reflected in work being undertaken by NATO’s membership individual defense forces. As far back as 2011, President Obama had signaled the intent to convert the fleet into a Great Green Fleet that would be powered by biofuels so that the United States would not be dependent on foreign oil. Energy security had moved up the political agenda in many countries, as the Middle East continued to be unstable.

Negotiations Towards Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The negotiations for the 2030 agenda started in January 2015, as governments prepared a comprehensive document for heads of state to agree on in September 2015. This document would have, at its center, the goals and targets from the SDG OWG process of the previous year. In the preamble of “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” five areas of critical importance for humanity were identified:

People: We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

Planet: We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.

Prosperity: We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social, and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.

Peace: We are determined to foster peaceful, just, and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.

Partnership: We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people

(UN, 2015).

In April 2014, Jim O’Neill, the economist, and former chairman of Goldman Sachs said: “The consequences if we don’t do something about this include 10 million in the world dying every year by 2050, and the global economic costs between now and then will be at least $100 trillion (£63 trillion)” (Spencer, 2015).

Also in April 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that “Unless there is urgent action, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill” (WHO, 2014).

The SDG targets did not put an explicit reference to the challenge of growing anti-microbial resistance. WHO was working on a report on the subject, but with the outbreak of Ebola, most of the staff working on the report had been assigned to work on the Ebola crisis.

On the last day of the penultimate negotiation week, there was a final push by stakeholders to have something in the text on anti-microbial resistance. Led by Sweden, which had tried to have a target on this issue, the previous year’s governments agreed in the last week to add a reference. In paragraph 26, it identified the challenges that health will play within the environmental security discourse.

We will equally accelerate the pace of progress made in fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, Ebola, and other communicable diseases and epidemics, including by addressing growing anti-microbial resistance and the problem of unattended diseases affecting developing countries. We are committed to the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases, including behavioral, developmental, and neurological disorders, which constitute a major challenge for sustainable development.

The interlinkages and integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals are of crucial importance in ensuring that the purpose of the new Agenda is realised. If we realize our ambitions across the full extent of the Agenda, the lives of all will be profoundly improved and our world will be transformed for the better

(UN, 2015).

Following the Heads of State meeting in October 2015, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Defense Council, and four other consumer interest, public health, and environmental organizations flagged up the issue of the impact that the resistance to antibiotics would have on livestock:

When livestock producers administer antibiotics routinely to their flocks and herds, bacteria can develop resistance, thrive and even spread to our communities, contributing to the larger problem of antibiotic resistance,” the authors wrote in the report, which was released Tuesday. “The worsening epidemic of resistance means that antibiotics may not work when we need them most: when our kids contract a staph infection (MRSA), or our parents get a life-threatening pneumonia.”

(Fox 8, 2015)

G7 Action on Environmental Security

Commissioned by G7 members for the G7 in Germany in 2015, Adelphi, International Alert, the Wilson Center and the EU Institute for Security Studies produced the report “A New Climate of Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks”(Rüttinger, Stang, Smith, Tänzler, & Vivekananda, 2015). It recommended that the G7 governments commit to designing and implementing integrated responses at several levels. It had four recommendations:

  1. 1. Integration begins at home: Make climate-fragility risks a central foreign policy priority. G7 governments can begin by integrating climate-fragility responses into planning, implementation, and evaluation processes across their departments. This requires new capacities within departments and new cross-sectoral policy processes.

  2. 2. Come together for a new dialogue: Enhance G7 cooperation. Problems that do not respect national borders can best be addressed by inter-governmental action. A G7 task force of senior officials could jump-start closer coordination between G7 members.

  3. 3. Set the global resilience agenda: Inform multilateral processes and structures. Acting together, G7 governments can help break down the sectoral barriers and siloed approaches that have kept multilateral processes and institutions, such as the post-2015 development agenda, from comprehensively addressing climate-fragility risks.

  4. 4. Partner for resilience: Engage widely to ensure global actions produce local results.Strengthening links between partners will help ensure that global initiatives improve local resilience to climate fragility risks. In particular, the G7 should partner with governments and NGOs in countries facing fragile situations and provide support for addressing climate-fragility risks (Rüttinger et al., 2015).

The G7 and the G20 are keeping these issues on the world agenda and keeping the focus on delivering the SDGs and their targets as a clear plan to address these challenges effectively and in an interlinked manner.

Discussion Paper: EU Foreign Policy in a Changing Climate a Climate and Energy Strategy for Europe’s Long-Term Security

In June 2016, the think tank E3G produced the discussion paper “EU Foreign Policy in a Changing Climate: A Climate and Energy Strategy for Europe’s Long-Term Security” (Bergamaschi, Mabey, Gaventa, & Born, 2016). This paper is the most up-to-date discussion on the issue of environmental security. The report concludes by pointing out the change in nature of the European Security Strategy and that the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement contributes to a making us “safer but not safe.” It ends with a clear warning:

If left unmanaged, climate change will undermine European security and spread chaos outside its borders. Europe needs therefore to put a comprehensive climate risk management framework at the heart of its foreign policy strategy. Actively managing the transition of fossil fuels suppliers towards a sustainable growth model will provide them with a stronger buffer against fossil fuels price volatility as well as future climate shocks, while developing resilient job and industry markets. Tightening economic relations with neighbouring countries around clean technology and resilient infrastructure will provide the basis for prosperous and stable cooperation. Accessing global clean markets will safeguard Europe’s energy security and technological leadership.

(Bergamaschi et al., 2016)

The Arctic

The rapid impact of climate change on the northern polar region opens the possibility for conflict in the coming years. The Arctic does not have a governance mechanism—unlike the Antarctic, which has three international, environmental, and political conventions that ensure the protection of the land, the ecosystem, and the seas surrounding it.

As the ice melts, access to oil and other natural resources could cause conflict. Since 2008, there has been an increase of over 60% in marine traffic. The five nations surrounding the Arctic Ocean are often referred to as the “polar nations.” These are the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia, and all but the United States are members of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS would be the natural body to strengthen; but without the United States as a member to the treaty—though all Presidents going back to Reagan have supported the ratification of this convention in the U.S. Senate—it hasn’t been possible to find the support for this to happen. The opening of new sea-lanes, and seasonal areas that are clear of ice, raises the potential for future political and economic conflict.

Canada and the United States, and Canada and Denmark have unresolved territorial sea and exclusive economic zone disputes in the Arctic. Norway and Russia disagree over offshore areas around Svalbard. The status of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian archipelago—as internal Canadian waters or an international strait—has been a Canadian concern since at least 1985. The issue is not resolved, and current transits are allowed through nation-to-nation bilateral agreement for icebreaker transits.

(Committee on National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces, 2011)

The Future

The evolution of the human and environmental security discourse is a result of the lack of implementation of previous global agreements, whether the 1992 Agenda 21, the UNFCCC, or the 1996 Food Summit. The challenges facing this next generation are much more complex and imminent than those faced by previous generations. The Sustainable Development Goals, targets, and indicators offer the best chance for governments and stakeholders to together start managing the tradeoffs that will be needed to secure a sustainable planet for all of us.

The dialogue on environmental security has moved from a fringe discussion to being central to our political discourse. The next stage must be a clear coordinated approach with our global and regional institutions. The UN should play a critical role in bringing together the challenges of addressing human and environmental security initially through the High Level Political Forum (HLPF); but, perhaps, a Human and Environmental Security envoy is needed, not a UN climate security envoy.

If we don’t succeed, I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, though speaking about a different challenge—Vietnam. The words ring true for the challenges we face:

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”

(King, 1967)


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