NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

01 Oct. 2009

Speech

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on emerging security risks, Lloyd's of London

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking Peter Levine for hosting us in this very impressive building.  This is my first time here, but it is the second time that NATO and Lloyd’s have come together to discuss emerging security challenges.  And while a security Alliance and an insurance market might not seem to have too much in common, another look makes it clear that we do:  managing risk.  We are both focused on predicting threats, taking steps to reduce their likelihood, and, when necessary, managing the effects.  Which is why it makes sense that we are doing this together.

It also makes sense because the challenges we are looking at today cut across the divide between the public and private sectors.  Piracy is an obvious example.  Private shipping is the victim.  NATO, the EU and many Governments have had to send navies to try to defend against attacks.  And it has cost insurance companies – many of which are part of the Lloyd’s market – millions.

Cyber security – our second topic today – is another case in point.  Government and private companies launch cyber-attacks.  Governments and industry suffer the consequences, in terms of lost revenue, lost data and lost services.  And it will take cooperation between the public and private sectors to build real defences.

These are real threats, real challenges, and we need to do a lot more to defend ourselves.  NATO is already investing a lot in fighting piracy, as part of a broad international effort.  We’d like more return on that overall investment, including through more coordinated military action and a better legal foundation to deal with pirates so that we don’t have to just send them home with a stern warning.

We also want to do better at cyber defence.  NATO’s Cyber Defence Centre is a good step in the right direction.  But the sustained, directed cyber attacks Estonia suffered a couple of years ago shows that the problem is much bigger than that.  On both subjects, I’m very much looking forward to the discussions today.

But there is a fundamental difference between, one the one hand, piracy and cybersecurity, and climate change on the other.  In the first two cases, the threat is very clear.  We know what a pirate looks like – and no, I’m not thinking of someone with an eye patch and parrot on his shoulder.  I’m thinking of someone well armed and ruthless.  The kidnapping and ransom is taking place now.  The costs to industry and Governments are easily calculated.  And while implementing them might be difficult, we have a pretty good idea of what the right solutions might be.

The same is true of cyber defence.  Attacks on industry and government websites and information systems are already a daily occurrence.  Again, the costs are pretty easy to calculate.  And while we are certainly able to do better, we have a general idea of the steps we should take. The challenge is figuring out how to do it.

Climate change is different. The science is not yet perfect.  The effects are just starting to be visible, but it’s difficult to pin down what’s actually changing because of climate change.  The timelines are not clear either.  And as a politician, I know exactly what that means.   When we have to choose between spending money now on schools or health care, or diverting funds to try to prevent something that will likely only hurt long after they have left office, the choice for most leaders is pretty clear.  And, let me say, not hard to understand.

But I want to devote a little more time today discussing the security aspects of climate change, because I think the time has come for a change in our approach. 

First, I think we now know enough to start moving from analysis to action.  Because the trend lines from climate change are clear enough, and grim enough, that we need to begin taking active steps to deal with this global challenge.   

We know that there will be more extreme weather events – catastrophic storms and flooding.  If anyone doubts the security implications of that – and the political difficulties, for that matter -- look at what happened in New Orleans in 2006. 

We know sea levels will rise.  Does it matter?  Indeed it does.  Two thirds of the world’s population lives near coastlines.  Critical infrastructure like ports, power plants and factories are all there.   If people have to move – or more accurately, when they have to move – they will do so in large numbers, always into where someone else lives, and sometimes across borders. 

We know there will be more droughts.  According to some studies, by 2025 about 40% of the world’s population will be living in countries experiencing some kind of water shortages.  Again, populations will move. And again, the security aspects can be devastating. 

If you think I’m using dramatic language, let me draw your attention to one of the worst conflicts in the world, in Darfur.  One of the main causes was a long drought.  Both herders and farmers lost land, including to the desert.  What happened?  The nomads moved South, in search of grazing land – right to where the farmers are. 

Of course, a lot of other factors have contributed to what has happened – political decisions, religious differences and ethnic tensions.  But climate change in Sudan has been a major contributor to this tragedy.  And it will put pressure on peace in other areas as well.

We know that in some areas, food production is likely to drop. The current science suggests that, for every 1.8 degree rise in temperature above historical norms, food production will drop 10%.  And like all the effects of climate change, it will hit hardest on the people and countries least able financially and organisationally to cope. And if you want an example, remember last year’s food riots, in many developing nations.

We know that Arctic ice is retreating.  In fact the Arctic is warming faster than other part of the world.  This is not necessarily a threat.  In many ways it’s an opportunity – opening up the Northwest Passage cuts 4000 nautical miles off the trip from Europe to Asia.    You can bet a lot of companies have done that math.   But we can’t wish away the security implications.  An entire side of North America will be much more exposed.  Increased shipping means a greater need for search and rescue.  And there will be competition for resources that had, until now, been covered under ice.

There are more examples, but to my mind, the bottom line is clear.  We may not yet know the precise effects, the exact costs or the definite dates of how climate change will affect security. But we already know enough to start taking action.  This is my first point: either we start to pay now, or we will pay much more later. 

My second point is this:  climate change may have potentially huge security implications, but the response cannot be exclusively military.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the military aspects are really only one tool in what will have to be a big toolbox.

First and foremost, we have to address the root cause:  global warming itself.  Curbing CO2 emissions must be a political priority for every Government and industry in the world.  The upcoming COP 15 climate negotiations in December must deliver an agreement that takes us beyond Kyoto, in terms of the number of countries that sign up and the effectiveness of their commitment.  Industry, too, must start to see that cutting CO2 emissions means cutting risk.  If we don’t do that, treating the symptoms will simply continue to get tougher.

Governments should also engage diplomatically to work out arrangements to share resources before scarcity makes sharing a political problem.  For example:   Two thirds of Arab countries rely on water sources outside their borders. In the Middle East, only Egypt and Iran have abundant water supplies – and there have already been tensions about sharing water.   All Governments need to lift their eyes to look a little farther, and look to see if some preventive diplomacy, with regard to climate change, might be in order.

By the same token, the political track should be used to the fullest to ensure that the High North remains an area of low tension.  The international community has made a good start, including through the Arctic Council. We should ensure that the right deals are done now – on jurisdiction, on access to resources, on fishing -- so that we head off tensions in future.

Another example:  both Governments and industry should invest now in reinforcing factories or energy stations or transmission lines or ports that might be at risk of storms or flooding.  And that has to happen around the world.  Developed countries should look to partner with developing states to give them a hand.  In an interdependent world – not least with regard to energy, where diversity of supply is a security issue – this only makes sense.

You get the point.  When it comes to climate change, building security doesn’t only mean with the military.  But it also doesn’t exclude the military either; on the contrary, our traditional security structures will have an important role to play.  Which brings me my third point:  I believe that NATO should begin a discussion on how we – NATO as an organisation, and individual Allies as well – can do better to address the security aspects of climate change.

I believe, for example, that the security implications of climate change need to be better integrated into national security and defence strategies – as the US has done with its Quadrennial Defence Review.  That means asking our intelligence agencies to look at this as one of their main tasks.  It means military planners should assess potential the impacts, update their plans accordingly and consider the capabilities they might need in future.   It means increasing preparedness to respond to natural and humanitarian disasters, at home or internationally, with all that that implies for training, equipment, and cooperation with civilian agencies.

We might also consider adapting our Partnerships to take climate change into account as well.  Right now, NATO engages in military training and capacity building with countries around the world.   We focus on things like peacekeeping, language training and countering terrorism.  What about also including cooperation that helps build capacity in the armed forces of our Partners to better manage big storms, or floods, or sudden movements of populations? 

Another issue which could be discussed in NATO:  prudent planning.  Rising sea levels will have a clear effect on the ability of our armed forces to do their jobs.  Look at Diego Garcia.  It is an important logistical hub, including for this country; it is also only a few feet above sea level at its highest point.  A one metre rise in sea levels and most of it would be flooded.   We need to assess the impacts that these kinds of events would have.

We can also look, within NATO countries, at doing something concrete:  increasing the fuel efficiency of the military vehicles in our national inventories.  Militaries are the largest vehicle owners in any country.  Improving efficiency would have clear benefits:  saving big money on fuel; reducing national carbon emissions; and improving the range and effectiveness of our forces in the field. If we could make real progress in this area, we could also help reduce our overall dependence on foreign sources of fuel, which is a big part of sustainable energy security.

Now, let me be very clear, before anyone assumes that I think NATO should be taking action, tomorrow, in all these areas.  I don’t.

But I do believe that NATO has a unique asset.   It is the place where 28 countries with top-class national security and defence establishments sit together every day to chart a common path forward.   And they do it because they know that by sharing best practices, developing joint plans and acting together, they are each safer and more secure than if they were to go it alone. 

To me, the value and importance of transatlantic security consultation within NATO applies as much to this issue as any other.  And we should start simply by bringing the security aspects of climate change to the NATO table for discussion, to get a shared view of what the challenge is, and what the best ways forward might be.  And I might add that I intend to make the building where they meet – the NATO Headquarters – a much greener, more energy efficient building than it is now.

But as I’ve said throughout, this cannot be done by the defence people alone.  It has to be a true team effort: civilian and military, public sector and private companies as well – all talking together, and working out mutually reinforcing efforts.  That might seem unrealistic, to those of us who have been in politics a few years.  No glacier is as imposing, no desert so impassable as the stovepipes within Governments.  Then again, sailors never thought the mythical North-West Passage would ever open. But it is opening.  Anything’s possible. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The security challenges being discussed today are big, and they are growing.   They might also seem a little overwhelming.   But I firmly believe that a lot can be done – to address the root causes, to minimize their impact, and to manage the effects when they hit.  All it will take is a lot more vigour, a lot more innovation, and a lot more cooperation.  That is especially true when it comes to climate change.  But the first step is realising that a famous environmental group was very wise and very farseeing indeed when they chose their name.  Today, more than ever, “green” and “peace” really do go together.

 

(Principal data source:  “National Security and the threat of Climate Change”; eleven retired three and four star officers. 2007)