From vicious to virtuous cycle: How the Alliance is tackling climate change and conflict

By embedding climate security and peacebuilding in research projects, Alliance researchers aim to help spur action to benefit both the planet and communities recovering from conflict

Climate change brings about extreme weather events from monsoon flooding to drought. These phenomena make natural resources such as water, land and food, scarce. With scarcity, a fight over natural resources could ensue, and this can turn violent. Armed conflict prevents authorities from pursuing steps to fight climate change. It could also be the opposite. Government efforts to fight climate change can voluntarily or involuntarily limit access to land, water and food resources. Over time, this can increase disputes over natural resources in a way that can turn violent.

The above scenarios are not only hypothetical. There’s growing evidence on the links between climate and conflict, which suggest a vicious cycle, based on ongoing research by members of the climate security and peacebuilding nexus at the Alliance.

What needs to happen is to change this vicious cycle into a virtuous one where reduced conflict can promote climate action, and climate mitigation and adaptation can build peace,” said Dr. Augusto Castro-Nuñez, a land use and climate scientist who also heads the Alliance’s nexus and low-emissions food systems research sub-lever.

He acknowledged the deep complexity of the links between climate, security and peacebuilding and that achieving the goal of transforming the vicious climate and conflict cycle into a virtuous peacebuilding and climate action cycle requires the concerted effort of the community of experts within the Alliance and their collaborators.

To begin the process, a meeting took place in December to gain insights from scientists and experts on the different topics of the nexus, that is, climate, security and peacebuilding, on how the Alliance can develop solutions to address climate change with a conflict-sensitive lens and similarly to address conflict with a climate-sensitive lens.

Several suggestions emerged during the gathering. The first is a strategy to embed climate security and peacebuilding topics into projects. The second is the translation of the knowledge created by Alliance scientists into policy briefs. And the third is a framework to understand how the work of each research lever within the Alliance aligns with the topics of the nexus.

Castro-Nuñez noted that the Alliance is making progress on the first suggestion. The Alliance, he said, has not been actively pursuing the second even if it has the capacity to do so, citing that research from the Alliance provided the basis for an event on REDD+ and peacebuilding. He agreed on the need for the third and gave the example of the work that the Alliance and the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, or ZALF, are doing under the Sustainable Land Use Systems for Climate Change Mitigation and Peacebuilding (SLUS) Project, which Germany’s International Climate Initiative is funding. Under the project, the two organizations are developing indicators on how sustainable agriculture contributes to peacebuilding. The hope, he added, is to involve people in the Alliance across disciplines and from different regions in this work.

There’s a consensus among the nexus members that the Alliance can blaze the trail on creating the virtuous peacebuilding and climate action cycle by not only harnessing the experience and expertise within our community on the topics of climate, conflict and peacebuilding but also its enthusiasm to develop approaches and implement these approaches in territories dealing with both climate change and conflict,” according to Ana Maria Loboguerrero, Research Director of Climate Action at the Alliance. “This affords us opportunities for novel partnerships, which are key to the success of our mission at the Alliance and the broader One CGIAR.”

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