Climate Change, Conflict and Fragility: Understanding the Linkages, Shaping Effective Responses
Author: Dan Smith and Janani Vivekananda
Size: 36 pages (474 kB)
What effect will climate change have on violent conflict? This report argues that climate change is most likely to provoke conflict in poor, badly governed countries with a recent history of violent conflict. Adaptation policies must respond to the links between climate change, state fragility and conflict, and must begin by focusing on as local a level as possible. Further, a large-scale systematic study is needed of the likely costs of adaptation. This should address the social and political dimensions as well as economic sectors.
One of the consequences of climate change is an increased risk of violent conflict. The risks are greatest in poor countries, where governments will find it hardest to make the necessary adaptations to cope with climate change. Heightened risk of conflict can stem from water shortages, damage to the agricultural sector and migration.
Although policymakers are beginning to develop global mechanisms for responding to climate change, negotiations have not yet fully addressed the impact of climate change on conflict. Policymakers have not paid sufficient attention to the specific problems and dangers relating to adaptation in conflict-affected countries and the dangers of ignoring these difficulties.
It is important to base adaptation policies on rigorous political economy analysis. Such an approach starts with an examination of the systems of power that underpin adaptation processes. It also seeks to understand how the changes brought about by climate change may be exacerbated by unequal social and political relations and poor governance.
In fragile states, political elites often have privileged access to economic and political opportunity and will fight to maintain this control. Climate change may lead to changes in land value or provide new opportunities for profit through adaptations to public service provision. These changes may enable elites to consolidate their grip on power and may increase conflict risk.
Development policy needs to change its approach to deal with the specific challenges presented by climate change. Climate change policy has to address the challenges of adaptation in their specific context, and focus on how poor governance can increase the risk of climate-driven conflict.
How climate and conflict policy can be integrated? How can international policymakers support successful adaptation processes in conflict-affected countries or fragile states? Recommendations include the following.
Smith, D., and Vivenkananda, J., 2009, 'Climate Change, Conflict and Fragility: Understanding the Linkages, Shaping Effective Responses', International Alert, London
Organisation: International Alert, http://www.international-alert.org