In the practice of environmental peacebuilding, adaptation and mitigation can, however, be an opportunity to build peace and mend social fabric. In fragile contexts, capturing the security and peace “co-benefits” of climate action – that is to say, the peace dividend – is critical to crowding in climate finance and promoting sustainable development.
For example, clean energy infrastructure can be a lifeline in conflict-afflicted areas, enabling other basic and emergency services. Similarly, “peace positive” mitigation and adaptation solutions can reduce competition between natural capital-dependent livelihoods and relieve pressure on overburdened infrastructure, particularly in areas receiving internally displaced persons and refugees.
While climate practitioners agree almost axiomatically that a changing climate is more than an environmental phenomenon, climate finance policies and programming do not fully account for such contextual issues, nor are these peace-oriented co-benefits of climate finance meaningfully factored into its allocation. More efficiently allocated climate finance should promote both environmental and social resilience.
Measuring peace dividends
The Third Assessment Report of the IPCC in 2001 stressed that co-benefits should be considered “at least equally important rationales” as direct climate benefits. In terms of capturing the co-benefits of climate finance, the mitigation camp is further ahead. But scholarship is still recent, dating back to just the 1990’s in relation to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In their 2020 study of 239 peer-reviewed journal articles, Karlsson, Alfredsson & Westling found that co-benefits are often overlooked in policymaking. Health and air quality co-benefits of GHG emission reductions are comparatively better examined. Whereas climate adaptation co-benefits are often little considered, if not underestimated. Rahman & Moric concluded in 2020 that studies on adaptation co-benefits are still limited and poorly communicated and non-market benefits and impacts on equity are particularly underacknowledged.
In 2010, Tanzler, Maas and Carius highlighted the need for climate finance to “harness the direct co-benefits of adaptation for peacebuilding” on a local, project-based level by designing conflict-sensitive adaptation programmes with transformative outcomes. Similarly, in their 2020 study of the first round of NDCs, UNDP and the UNFCCC illustrated that greater understanding is needed to quantify and capture peace co-benefits, not only in relation to adaptation finance, but also mitigation and energy access finance.
Discussions of mitigation or adaptation-related co-benefits for peace, stability, and security remain still anecdotal, at best. Their codification is almost non-existent. As evidence of maladaptation has increased since the Fifth Assessment Report, it’s argued that with a focus on co-benefits for different sectors this can be avoided. Factoring in the peace dividend, a stronger case could also be made for action and investment.
Linking climate finance with peace
UNDP’s work with the Climate Security Mechanism aims to bridge the climate finance – peace and security gap. To do this, the Climate Security Mechanism has worked to uncover trends in access to climate finance for countries suffering from conflict and fragility; identify gaps and opportunities to leverage the co-benefits of climate action for peace and security; create strategies for mainstreaming climate-related security risks into climate finance; and share recommendations on how to make climate finance work more effectively in contexts affected by conflict and fragility.
In the conceptual policy-practice feedback loop, practice is often still underrated, while heuristic approaches are key to solutions. The work of the Climate Security Mechanism highlights the use of thematic evaluations, dynamic portfolio tracking, and convening power of multilateral vertical funds. Together, these unique capabilities can forge a dialogue between diverse stakeholders (including peacebuilding actors) and create platforms for climate finance and peace and security. Much like the Global Environment Facility’s Global Wildlife Program and Climate Technology Centre and Network, such platforms could support exchange, innovation, and mainstreaming priorities in the funds’ country level programmes and set goalposts for project development.
In climate adaptation finance, a corollary and similarly important entry point for mainstreaming climate-related peace co-benefits could be National Adaptation Plans, which are supported in large part by the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility. Environmental and social safeguards are critical to “do no harm” approaches. But to contribute positively to peace, the field of climate finance will need to reconstruct its Theories of Change.