Positive Environment News

EU Warned of Climate-Induced Polar Security Threat

Date: 07-Mar-08
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Paul Taylor

A report to the leaders by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the executive European Commission describes climate change as "a threat multiplier", which will exacerbate many existing tensions and heighten instability.

"A further dimension of competition for energy resources lies in potential conflict over resources in Polar regions which will become exploitable as a consequence of global warming," the eight-page report obtained by Reuters said.

"The resulting new strategic interests are illustrated by the recent planting of the Russian flag under the North Pole."

A Russian scientific expedition planted a flag on the ocean floor last summer, staking a symbolic claim to the resource-rich region. President Vladimir Putin decorated the three-man team with "Hero of Russia" medals.

The report said the EU needed to address the growing debate over Arctic territorial claims and access to new trade routes which challenged its ability to secure its trade and resource interests and may put pressure on relations with "key partners".

It suggested the 27-nation bloc develop a specific Arctic policy "based on the evolving geo-strategy of the Arctic region, taking into account ... access to resources and the opening of new trade routes".

Rules of international law such as the Law of the Sea might have to be strengthened to cope with new challenges, it said.

The study suggested the EU should do more to focus international attention on security risks related to climate change using the UN Security Council, the Group of Eight major industrialised powers and specialist UN bodies.

It cited a host of regional examples of the increased prospect of conflict caused by the reduction of arable land, water shortages, dwindling food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts which were already occurring.

The east coasts of China and India, as well as the Caribbean region and Central America faced particularly severe economic damage from sea-level rise and increasing natural disasters.

Loss of territory as coastlines recede and large areas are submerged would magnify disputes over land and maritime borders.

"Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure", the report said, as millions of "environmental migrants" flee poverty, poor health and unemployment, risking increased conflicts in transit and destination areas.

Solana and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said climate change could increase instability in failed or failing states, stoking tensions between ethnic and religious groups and political radicalisation.

Existing tensions over access to water in the Middle East were almost certain to intensify, "leading to further political instability with detrimental implications for Europe's energy security and other interests," the report said.

It also saw additional potential for conflict in central Asia from an increasing shortage of water, vital for both agriculture and power generation, with an impact on EU strategic and economic interests.

(reporting by Paul Taylor; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)

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