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Climate change and peace: the Sydney Peace Foundation to focus on climate change in 2020

Peace is much more than the absence of violence. Peace requires the presence of justice, institutions and structures preventing violence.

‘The risks associated with climate-related disasters do not represent a scenario of some distant future. They are already a reality for millions of people around the globe ……. We cannot lag behind. We must act now, with a sense of urgency and a commitment to place people, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable, at the centre of our efforts.’ (UN political affairs chief DiCarlo).

Where there is lower capacity for states to respond, adapt to and recover from climate-induced disasters, marginalisation and local grievances will intensify. Climate change disproportionately impacts economic development in conflict-affected countries that depend on agriculture for their prosperity.

The impacts of climate change wear away the capacity of states to prevent conflict. Erratic weather patterns and extreme weather events cause resource scarcity and render land inhabitable, intensifying inequality and conflict.

Climate change is transforming the security landscape. The 2019 Global Peace Index factored in, for the first time, climate change as a considerable threat to global peace in the next decade. ‘Research is clear that changes in the natural environment impose stress on human societies.’

Environmental degradation and water stress lead to hunger, famine, displacement, migration and conflict. These connections are already impacting lives in the Pacific, Middle East, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. ‘Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. This is the equivalent to one person being displaced every second. The number and scale of huge disasters creates significant fluctuation from year to year in the total number of people displaced, while the trend over decades is on the rise’. (Global Estimates 2015, IDMC).

Climate change is not a future problem. It is already destroying ecosystems, livelihoods and lives. Imagine a future where these impacts are even more profound!

Inaction on climate change is an affront to justice and the most severe risk to peace in our time. In commitment to our goal of promoting peace with justice, in 2020, the Sydney Peace Foundation sheds light on solutions to address this crisis, and on the need to act immediately.

To provide peace and security, strengthen governance and justice systems and ensure a future where peace is still a possibility, we need to act now. Climate change is an urgent threat and we are not acting fast enough.

If we do not act, then change is coming by design or by disaster. We must forge alliances and work together to demand change and build a better system before it is too late.

Change is something we must demand from our leaders to support peace. We need to act – together, now.