Policy Paper

Reinforcing Environmental Dimensions of European Foreign and Security Policy


Acknowledging the role environment and ecosystems play in underpinning security – both in terms of national and human security – means a departure from the security and defence policy as traditionally perceived. It requires a more holistic regime that goes beyond military preparedness or response, with due links to a range of sectoral activities that impact the environmental and ecosystem quality and resilience.

The impacts of a degrading environment and a changing climate on national and international security are becoming more and more apparent. Combined with an increasing world population, the pressures on the natural environment and competition over natural resources are considered one of the key peace and security challenges of the 21st century. Changes in the state of the natural environment – when interacting with the broader social, economic and political situation – can cause or aggravate conflicts. These changes can become an issue for national and international security, depending on their scale and how successfully they are addressed through local, regional or national governance.

This paper outlines the environmental dimension of the European security policy and security-related foreign policy and discusses how the integration of environmental concerns into this policy framework could – and should – be improved to support the delivery of the 2030 Sustainability Agenda, both in the EU and globally.

It concludes by giving concrete policy recommendations:

  • Invest in environmental and climate diplomacy as means to mainstream these aspects in EU foreign and security policy as key determinants for human, national, EU and international security.
  • Increase the capacity of and coordination between key institutional agents including EEAS, DGs DEVCO, CLIMA and ENVIRONMENT, EU country delegations, EDN and possibly PESCO.
  • Recognise the role of water as a source of conflict as well as an opportunity for cooperation, increasing efforts on EU’s water diplomacy as one key area where the EU can show leadership.
  • Identify priority regions or countries to engage in a dedicated environmental and climate security dialogue, with appropriate links to the programming and implementation of the related EU financing instruments.
  • Ensure that the EU Partnership Instrument and the EU Instrument for Stability and Peace as vehicles for EU environmental diplomacy are carried forward in to the post-2020 MFF.
  • Improve horizon scanning and early warning indicators and capacity by supporting monitoring and early warning bodies focusing on climate change, environmental degradation and resource competition both within and outside the EU.
  • Streamline current efforts in climate mitigation and adaptation in the EU military missions, including connecting military to Climate ADAPT (European Climate Adaptation Platform).
Product details
Date of Publication
December 2018
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union, IEEP, Brussels Dialogue on Climate Democracy, Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change
Number of Pages
Language of publication