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Updates from the Strauss Center and our affiliated distinguished scholars and fellows


Moran Coauthors Report for the NATO Secretary General on Climate Change

May 20, 2021 |

Ashley McIlvain Moran, Director of the Strauss Center’s State Fragility Initiative, co-authored two chapters in Sustainable Peace and Security in a Changing Climate: Recommendations for NATO 2030, a report prepared for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The North-Atlantic Civil Society Working Group on Environment and Security produced the report, under the auspices of the Brussels Dialogue on Climate Diplomacy, to make recommendations on expanding NATO’s engagement on the security risks associated with climate and environmental stress. The report was prepared in the context of the NATO 2030 initiative, which aims to support the Alliance in preparing for future challenges and, in particular, strengthening its political dimension.

In one chapter, titled “Reconceptualizing Risks and Security,” Moran and her co-authors discuss the “cascading effects” of climate change. They advocate for NATO to reconceptualize its approach to threats, risks, and security, in order to address to the multi-dimensional nature of climate change. The authors then illustrate the relationship between climate disruptions and fragility. They note that climate change poses a unique threat to areas facing strained government capacity and community resilience, and this convergence yields specific vulnerabilities. This requires the adoption of preventative measures, as pre-existing fragility risks can be exacerbated by the instability that often flows from climate and environmental stress. They then discuss NATO’s potential role in building these “predictive and preventative capabilities,” providing twelve specific recommendations for NATO’s future work in this issue. 

Moran also contributed to the chapter on “Emerging Theatres: West Africa and Macaronesia,” which highlights unfolding security threats in West Africa and the island states of the Gulf of Guinea and Macaronesia. The authors review various maritime security threats in the region, including piracy and trafficking of drugs, humans, plants, guns, and animals. These maritime threats, they argue, are of strategic interest to many NATO member states and—if coupled with deeper instability driven by climate crises—could “spillover” into NATO countries. They advocate for deepening NATO’s engagement in this region by partnering with nations in the region and building international collaboration on these maritime security threats. Their resulting list of fifteen recommendations is included at the end of the essay. 

Moran presented the report findings to representatives of NATO member states and headquarters staff last month at a briefing organized by NATO’s Policy Planning Unit and Emerging Security Challenges Division. Overall, the report contains a range of policy options and practical recommendations to be considered in the NATO 2030 process. These aim to strengthen NATO in a time of new environmentally related challenges in the interest of promoting sustainable peace and security for all. Read the full report here.