Copenhagen: Creating a Climate for Conflict?

More broadly, if large-scale funding is available for adaptation, governments that are characterized by low efficiency or high corruption will be largely unable to use it well. It is most likely to be diverted into the hands and pockets of one faction or another in the political elite. The injection of large funds may even be a contributory factor exacerbating conflict risk.

Peace-Building Under Pressure Because of Climate Change

Adaptation strategies should be defined not only by the nature of the natural hazard that is faced but also on the basis of understanding the systems of power. This must involve the poorest and most marginalized, and avoid pitting groups against one another.

Likewise, peace-building needs to be climate-proofed by paying attention to the availability of agricultural resources to returning ex-combatants or people displaced by conflict. These could be under pressure because of climate change.

For example, in Liberia, which is in the process of recovery from war, many ex-combatants are returning to villages hoping to make a living from agriculture.

But climate scientists predict that crop yields in parts of West Africa could halve by 2020. The prospect arises of returned fighters becoming resentful unemployed farmers, and so potential recruits, with their combat experience, in a new conflict.

Alongside all this, the efforts of rich countries to shift to a low-carbon economy must be peace-friendly and supportive of development.

We don't want a repeat of the hasty actions in 2007-2008 that saw the diversion of food crops and land use to biofuel production. This played a role in pushing up food prices, causing conflict in over 30 countries.

If we can get the negotiators in Copenhagen and in the follow-up next year to understand these linkages, there's a good chance that responses to climate change could yield a double dividend: increasing resilience to both climate change and violent conflict.

Failure to take account of these issues, though, could result in the billions of dollars of funding for adaptation actually becoming part of the problem.

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