High-Level Discussion on Climate Security

with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27)

  • 08 Nov. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 09 Nov. 2022 16:46

(As delivered)

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference: Thank you very much for being with us here. We know you have limited time, we really appreciate that you spend this time with us. Can I ask you at the beginning: just a few months ago, NATO adopted its new strategic concept. And there it is: NATO commitment concluded that it will be the leading international organization when it comes to understanding and adapting to the impact of climate change on security. If I can ask you before we zoom in more on the region on Middle East and Africa, how are you succeeding in implementing this commitment?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much for inviting me to this event and many thanks to the Munich Security Conference, to the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany for co-hosting the event, and to you, Ambassador Heusgen, Christoph, because for me it is an honour to be part of a COP again. As the first ever Secretary General of NATO, I participated at the Conference of the Parties - the COP - in Glasgow last year and even though it's only virtual, it's good to be back at the COP this time. My understanding is that your question was about whether we are or to what extent we're able to follow up what we agreed in the strategic concept that was agreed at the NATO Summit in June of this year, and where we actually make climate change an issue for NATO for the first time. We have to realize that in the strategic concept that was valid until we updated or made a new one in June, climate change is not mentioned. Then we have realized over the last couple of years that climate change of course, it's something that NATO has to address. And there are, in a way, 3 things that NATO has to do.

One is to fully understand the link between climate change and security. Climate change impacts security. Climate change is a crisis multiplier. It increases competition over scarce resources, water, food, land. It forces millions of people to flee. So, climate change creates conflicts. It exacerbate conflicts. And since climate change matters for security, climate change matters for NATO. We need to fully understand that link because we need to understand the different threats we are faced with. So we are building up our capacity when it comes to analyse, understand and assess the link between climate change, wars, conflict and security.

The second thing, which matters for NATO is that, of course, climate change, more extreme weather, windier, wilder, wetter weather matters for military operations. We have a training mission in Iraq and they have experienced more than 50 degrees Celsius. Our equipment, our uniforms, how to adapt to more extreme weather - we have the melting of the ice in the Arctic. It matters for the strategic importance of the Arctic. Increased sea levels matters all our naval bases. So we just had to adapt our operations or missions, our equipment, our uniforms to climate change, to more extreme weather. And we are in the process of doing that by incorporating climate change in our military planning, our capability targets and everything we do.

And thirdly, of course, our armed forces have to be part of the efforts to reduce emissions. If you look at, what should I say, traditional military equipment, heavy battle tanks, battleships, planes, they are not normally very green. They emit a lot. So we need to find a way to reduce military emissions. I attended my first COP in 1997 in Kyoto and there I remember that military emission was explicitly exempted from reporting on the emissions from different countries. So they were exempted from the whole equation. Now, military emissions are part of what is counted, but the data is not good. So we are now, we have launched a project in NATO to standardize how we report on emissions from military operations because that's the first step towards reducing military emissions. And I strongly believe that in the future, we need green, but also of course, effective military capabilities. But in the future, the most effective military capabilities will be the green and environmentally friendly ones. So that's the three things we need to do and are doing at NATO: understand the link between climate change and security; adapt our military missions and operations to more extreme weather; and, thirdly, reduce military emissions starting by mapping military emissions in a much, much better way than we do today.

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen: Thank you very much for this. I think that's very important that NATO so to speak, from 1997 to today, has been mainstreaming in the efforts to see how we can reduce climate change. And I think it's very important that that also comes from Brussels to all NATO members. Now, Secretary General, you spent time on this issue, but you spent most of the time now on Russia. Its aggression against Ukraine. What are, again in the context of what we have been discussing, from your perspective, what are the global implications of Russia's war against Ukraine, in particular for food and energy security? How does it impact the fight against climate change and the path to net zero?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: The war in Ukraine is a brutal war of aggression launched by President Putin against the independent sovereign democratic nation. It's a blatant violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. And it causes bloodshed, suffering, death, killing of civilians every day in Ukraine. Therefore, the war has to end because it causes so much suffering for Ukrainians. But, on top of that, the war in Ukraine has global ramifications. It has triggered a global food crisis, a spike in food prices and global energy crisis. Because we have to understand that it's not the sanctions imposed by the European Union, by NATO Allies, by the United States, that has caused a spike in energy and food prices. That is the war. It is the fact that… because there are no sanctions against food, no sanctions against the export of grain from Ukraine. So what has caused this food and energy crisis is the war itself. And that's a deliberate war by President Putin. And he has deliberately weaponized energy food in this attempt to crush, to take control over Ukraine. It has caused a lot of damage for the most vulnerable people in the world because they have to pay a high price for energy and a high price for the food because of the war. Then I am glad that we have the United Nations, Turkey, a NATO ally, and an international community that has been able to negotiate, to agree the grain deal that has enabled export of grain out of Ukraine to at least partly reduce the pressure in the global food market. I just visited this weekend Istanbul. I actually saw the grain ships sailing through the Bosporus Strait. I spoke with President Erdogan and, of course, I also praised him for the efforts of Türkiyeto facilitate the grain deal. And we continue to call on Russia to respect the grain deal and also to be willing to extend the grain deal because the war is catastrophic for the people of Ukraine to suffer every day. But the war in Ukraine has also global ramifications caused not by the sanctions, but by the war. The best way of addressing this is for President Putin to end the war, to stop fighting and to respect Ukraine. Then we'll see more food exports, we'll see more energy exports and that would be the best way to also alleviate or to address the ramifications of war.

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen: this is, of course, a topic that is also been discussed here in Sharm El Sheikh. What is your prediction. How long will this war last?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Wars are by nature unpredictable. And, therefore, I will be very careful about predicting how long it will last. But I strongly believe that NATO Allies, partners around the globe, we must continue to provide support to Ukraine. Because if President Putin wins, if Russia wins in Ukraine, that will send the message to President Putin, but also to other authoritarian leaders, that they can get their way, that they can achieve their goals by using brutal military force. Of course, as most wars, this war will, at some stage, most likely end at the negotiating table. But you know that what happens around the negotiating table is fundamentally linked to the situation on the battlefield. And the only way for Ukraine to achieve a result around in those negotiations that will most likely happen at some stage, which is acceptable for them, and which ensures that Ukraine can prevail as a sovereign independent nation, is that they have the strength on the battlefield that enables an acceptable outcome at the negotiating table. So we need to support Ukraine, to strengthen their hand in what most likely at some stage will become, the negotiations to end the war. The last thing I will say is that we have to remember this is a war of aggression. One country, Russia, attacking another country. So the best, if President Putin and Russia stops the fight, then we will have peace. If President Zelenskyy and Ukraine stop the fight, then Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent nation. So this is the difference between an aggressor and the victim of aggression. We support Ukraine and the right for self-defence, a right actually enshrined in the UN Charter. So if President Putin will stop the war that will be good for Ukraine. It will be good for our security, and it will be good for global food and energy prices. And that makes it just even more important for him to stop the war.

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen: Well, thank you very much for this important statement and let me dwell on that one more time. When you talk to people in Africa or Latin America, Asia that really are suffering now, from what you have mentioned, the rising energy prices and food prices. They say, well, this war has to come to an end. Can there be a ceasefire? Can there be now negotiations and put pressure on both sides to stop the war? And you have just been explaining what that would mean for Ukraine but I get the feeling that many people in the global South say, well, you know, when we have conflicts, of course, we get pressured to have a ceasefire to stop and here now we are saying no, this has to go on. I think we have to do a lot of explaining there and I would like to give you this opportunity again. Why it is not a simple solution that you just say okay, now we will stop and have a ceasefire?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Because if Ukraine gives in to the Russian demands and accepts that Russia can just move in, invade Ukraine and then take territory, then there is a risk that that will not only encourage them to attack again and again and then they achieve more and more after every invasion. We have to remember that this war did not start in February 2022, it started in 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and took control over the eastern part of Ukraine, and now they attacked again and launched a full-scale invasion in February. And if then, Russia once again sees that the use of brutal force is actually the way to achieve what they want, that's a catastrophe for Ukraine. But it's also dangerous for all of us, because it then sends the message that the use of brutal force is the way to achieve political goals, to take control over a neighbouring country. We also have to remember that at the start of the war, Russia stated ambitions not only regarding Ukraine, but also regarding NATO and NATO Allies. They wanted NATO to close its door, to prevent Finland and Sweden from becoming NATO members as they now have applied and actually been invited to become. They wanted NATO to remove all its forces from the eastern part of Alliance, to introduce some kind of second-class membership of this Alliance. And of course, that's not acceptable. So, the main problem is that Russia wants to re-establish a system of sphere of influence, where they can decide what neighbours can do or not do. And that is a more dangerous world. That's the reason why it's enshrined in the UN Charter, and every country has a right to self-defence. Ukraine is defending themselves. NATO, NATO Allies are not party to the conflict, but we support Ukraine in upholding the UN enshrined right for self-defence. That is what we are doing. And again, as I said, everyone wants this war to end. But if Ukraine stops the fight, they will cease to exist as an independent nation. If Russia stops the fight, then we will have peace. Then, we have to remember that the global ramifications, they are caused by the fact that Russia blocked ports, Ukrainian ports, for many months. They stole grain, they stole ships, and they have made it very hard to export critical commodities. This has caused the global ramifications, the global consequences for food and energy prices, which matters then for the global south. So yes, we should end the war and the best and easiest way to do that is for President Putin to respect the sovereignty over a neighbour, Ukraine.

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen: Thank you. Thank you very much for this explanation. Now. We have about eight more minutes and this is a chance for you to ask a question to ask the Secretary General of NATO question. who is ready to do that? We have the microphone right here in the middle. Please, you just have to stand up and we put the mic right next to you and introduce yourself please Sir.

Question: Thank you so much, Mister Secretary and Moderator. My name is [inaudible], I work for a Siemens energy. And of course, my question goes into the energy security and the security topic…Perhaps it would put some risk perspective of how does this impact energy security as well going forward and what would be the key priorities of trying to address this topic as well? Thank you.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well, I strongly believe that what we have seen in Ukraine and Russia's attempts, or the use of energy as a weapon against NATO Allies and other countries, is a stark reminder of the need to transition from dependence on fossil fuels to renewables because that will make us less dependent on Russian gas and Russian oil. And that's exactly also why I strongly believe that actually, the more we can be able to help NATO Allies and countries all around the world to go from fossil fuels to renewables, that will be good for our security, but it also be good for climate change and our efforts to mitigate climate change. So the good news is that there is a kind of common interest, both our security interests but those who are interested in fighting global warming climate change, to be less dependent on fossil fuels, especially from Russia. That's exactly what we are addressing in NATO ,how to help them facilitate support that transition.

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen: Thank you very much. There is a second question.

Question: Thank you very much Secretary General for speaking today. Last year, NATO released its climate action plan.

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen: sorry, could you introduce yourself.

Question: I am [inaudible] with our Canadian delegation. I was wondering if you could speak more about the specific targets that NATO has released its climate action plan last year. I'm wondering if you can specify what the targets are for 2030. I'm also wondering if NATO was tracking the climate and environmental impacts of the weapons being sent to Ukraine and finally, on climate financing, NATO members have increased their military spending. Two, it's approximately $1.2 trillion. It's over $200 billion annually, but we are struggling to find money for climate financing for loss and damage for adaptation. I'm wondering about the possibility of reducing military spending and then investing in developing countries and in their climate challenges. Thanks.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, on defence spending. I fully understand that it is hard for NATO Allies to meet the NATO guidelines on spending more on defence - 2% of GDP. And I was Minister of Finance. I was a minister, Prime Minister Norway for 10 years. And at least in the beginning of that period, we, as most NATO Allies, actually all of NATO Allies, we reduced defence spending because tensions went down. We lived in a more peaceful and secure world after the Cold War. But then the brutal reality is that we live now in a more dangerous world. We live now in a world where we see especially Russia using military force against its neighbours. We saw it in Georgia in 2008. They have forces in Moldova without the consent of the government in Moldova. Then they used to military force against Ukraine in 2014. And now again, full-fledged invasion in this winter. So all of that has just regrettably made the world more dangerous. And when we reduce defence spending when tensions are going down, we need to increase defence spending when tensions are going up. I regret that because I fully understand that there are many other aims or purposes that politicians like to spend money on like climate change, support for developing countries, education and many other purposes. But, if we don't have peace, if we don't have security, then we'll fail with all the other tasks that lie ahead of us. So a precondition to be able to address climate change is that we preserve peace. And that's reason why we also need to invest. Because we have seen for instance, that the only way to support Ukraine is actually also to provide them with military support. We are now, what we have done so far is to dig into our own stocks of ammunitions and weapons but then we need to replenish those stocks that has a price tag. And therefore, I regret to say that there is a need to invest more in defence. Again, if we saw a less aggressive Russia then the need would have been not so big to invest so much in defence as we now have to do. Without peace, we will not be able to address development issues or climate change issues. Let me also just, since you are from Canada, congratulate Canada and commend Canada for now establishing a centre of excellence on climate change that will actually enhance our understanding, as we work together as allies in addressing the security consequences of climate change. Then, our concrete target we have agreed is to cut emissions from NATO bodies and commands by at least 45% by 2030. And towards net zero by 2050. We have to do this many different ways. Some have expressed some scepticism that can we have effective green battle tanks and I strongly believe in the future the most effective military capabilities will be environmentally friendly. I don't think that NATO can remain a kind of fossil fuel Alliance in a world of renewables. When you see the civilian sector developing more and more advanced modern engines, electric cars, electric vehicles, which are green and effective. I'm absolutely certain that in the future there will be no contradiction between green and effective, the most effective military capabilities will also be green. And NATO has to be part of that technological revolution. That's also reason why we are investing in technology as part of our climate adaptation.

Ambassador Christoph Heusgen: Thank you very much. A last very short question. Go ahead.

Question: Thank you. Moderator. Thank you, General Secretary. My name is [inaudible] from Berlin here I'm representing the ACT Alliance, a faith-based organization of more than 150 churches and church-based organizations and humanitarian aid. I have been climate justice ambassador since quite some time. The human security or people security has been very high on the agenda of the UN for the very important aspect of this concept. Already in 2008 or something, the climate change was made a very important part of the concept of human security, people's security. I'm wondering I'd like to ask you, whether and how people security, as part of or linked to climate security is part of the strategy when you try to address climate change in all your operations and all your missions. So what role would then there be for the concept of people's security?

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: climate change affects human security, people's security, every day. We see that with the droughts, with the flooding, the extreme consequences that is caused by climate change and that's in the discussions in Sharm El Sheikh, as we all can read. Event those who are not attending the conference as I, we, of course, we read reports and we see that this is the main topic of the conference. And that's the other reason why I think the meeting in Sharm El Sheikh is so important. For NATO, there is the link between climate change and security. As I just stressed, it's that climate change is a crisis multiplier. The effects on security matters for NATO. Human security is violated every day. Weather is warmer than ever. We see now in Europe that human security is violated every day in Ukraine. The best way to prevent that is to preserve peace and NATO's core and main task is to prevent war, preserve peace. Our task is not to provoke conflict, but it's actually prevent the conflict. We do that by standing together, protecting each other and for more than 70 years that has preserved peace in Europe. For those Allies who are, for those countries who are NATO allies. Ukraine is not the NATO Ally but Ukraine is a close partner, and therefore we support Ukraine [inaudible] to stop a meaningless suffering bloodshed that is caused by the war of aggression by President

Ambassador Christophe Heusgen: Thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary General and thank you so much for spending time with us. Sorry for the technical troubles at the very beginning. We hope to see you in February at the Munich Security Conference, this time in person. Again, thank you very much for being with us. Thank you so much.