Climate change is seen by many countries and non-state actors as one of the central global challenges of the 21st century. Climate policy seeks both to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to limit the magnitude of climate change (mitigation) and to initiate measures for coping with the consequences (adaptation; losses and damages). Moreover, a scientific debate has emerged about the use of technologies to deliberately intervene in parts of the climate system (climate engineering), which broadens the scope of dealing with climate change-related challenges.
In 2015 the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded the Paris Agreement for the period after 2020. For the first time, the new climate agreement attributes the same importance to adaptation as it does to the mitigation of climate change, including climate finance. The rulebook for the treaty was nearly finished in 2018 at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland; some issues remain and await clarification at the next COP. The parties to the Paris Agreement are obliged to pledge nationally determined contributions (NDCs), that is, climate policy targets that show which mitigation action, adaptation measures, and financial contributions or needs they are planning for. Under the treaty, the NDCs will be updated every five years (starting in 2020), and the parties have agreed to progress in their ambitions. Moreover, global climate action will be reviewed every five years in view of the (well below) 2 degrees Celsius target and the 1.5 degrees limit in the global temperature (global stock take, 2023).
The EU has implemented the Paris Agreement by translating its 2030 emissions target into legislation. A new NDC was submitted in December 2020, in accordance with the “Green Deal.” For the long-term policy target under the Paris Agreement, namely the “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century” (Article 4.1), the European Commission drafted a 2050 climate strategy (“A Clean Planet for all”) already in November 2018. The goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050 is guiding the scenarios. The EU-wide emission reduction target for 2030 was raised to 55 per cent (compared to 1990 levels). Furthermore, the Green Deal proposal includes making European climate law the top legislative project, which was initiated in March 2020. The Green Deal agenda is comprehensive, cross-sectoral, and merges EU climate actions with energy governance and economic policies. Given the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Green Deal agenda will have to be adjusted along the concept of a “green stimulus,” mainly through investment priorities for climate-friendly projects.
Under the German presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2011, a presidential statement on the possible security implications of climate change was adopted. Germany again held a non-permanent seat on the UNSC in 2019 and 2020 and raised the issue again in an open debate during its presidency in July 2020. In 2017, the Lake Chad Resolution named climate change as a driver of violent conflicts in the region. Other members of the UNSC pick up the issue regularly. The United Kingdom held an open debate on climate and security in February. Norway and other non-permanent members of the UNSC have called for a reprioritisation of climate security in the council in 2021 as well.
The age of actorless threats has arrived. Democracies need to re-imagine and re-tool their responses.