Every year, the Munich Security Conference brings together the most senior decision-makers to debate critical issues in international security.
This year, I will join them. And while I am sure I will disagree with most of the participants on many things – and make it clear that Greenpeace does not support the notion of security defined by military might – I am also sure of one thing: The majority of participants will agree that climate change is a key threat to international security.
For all its faults, the military and intelligence community have been vocal on the threats of climate change and one of the first to prepare for it. For over a decade now, the U.S. military in particular has recognised climate change as a major threat to security. The latest National Security Strategy elevated climate change to a top-level strategic risk, alongside terrorism, economic crises and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Senior representatives of the new US administration are expected to attend the Munich conference, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defence James Mattis. They will be urging the European Union (EU) to take more responsibility for its own security. I agree Europe should. But not – as US President Donald Trump and his administration demand – through investing more money in the military or by erecting higher walls or stronger fences. Quite the opposite.
Europe needs to respond to the American call for increased responsibility with an ambitious peace and security project that brings meaning and hope to its own citizens and people around the world.
The EU remains a crucial player in the international arena. It´s time to use this position to promote peace and urgently address climate change through a clean energy economy globally. The EU must demonstrate leadership by forcing the US to live in the real world and address climate change as a major security threat. And the EU needs to become a leading example of a new type of prosperity that does not come at a cost to the environment or the world’s poor.
Indeed, the EU must promote peace by addressing the root causes of conflicts. Conflicts are always complex and “resource wars” are not new. But looking at the current conflicts from Iraq, Ukraine, South Sudan, the South China Sea to Nigeria it is obvious that the access, the transport and thus the dependence on fossil fuels play a critical role.
In 2003 Mattis called on Department of Defence planners to ‘unleash us from the tether of fuel.” He was right on that – and his call is now more urgent than ever. Our governments must unleash us from the tether of fossil fuels. And deliver true security. We have a long way to go. If you search for “security policy” in Google Images, the images you get are of men in uniforms, combat aircraft, fences and endless pipelines. What you don’t find are wind turbines or photovoltaic systems, insulation materials or double glazed windows. But these are the “weapons” we must deploy if we want to create a safer world order.
The stakes have never been higher. Donald Trump is promising to keep the US in the fossil fuel age by doubling down on oil, gas and coal production. Although he will fail to stop the global energy revolution underway, former ExxonMobil boss Tillerson as the US Secretary of State, still brings a real risk of ‘oil (friendly) diplomacy’, which could accelerate global conflict and catastrophic climate change.
Europe must not allow this to happen. European leaders attending the conference – whether Chancellor Merkel, EU Council President Tusk, EU High Representative Mogherini, or Foreign Ministers Gabriel, Ayrault or Johnson – all must tell Pence and Mattis in Munich that transatlantic security discussions need to always include the fight against climate change. And they must be clear that the EU will build peace and security through a new clean energy economy.
Planet Earth First Banner at G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bonn, 16 Feb, 2017.
In Munich, European leaders should tell their American visitors that European foreign and development policies will drive a 100% renewable, zero carbon economy globally by 2050 at the latest. Such an efficient, decentralized renewables-based economy would not only bring stability to Europe, but have a stabilising effect worldwide. In Munich, the EU needs to take a stand and show true leadership and global responsibility. I will be there, I will be watching and I will call out leaders if they fail this test of responsibility.
First published on the Huffington Post online