The Securitization of Climate Change: A Developmental Perspective

  • Katie Peters
  • Leigh Mayhew
Part of the Rethinking International Development Series book series (RID)


Ever since climate change was discussed at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2007, the labelling of climate change as a security threat has proliferated. A growing body of literature champions this perspective (CNA 2007; Schwartz and Randall 2003). It stems largely from the United States, but more recently also from Europe and multilateral bodies such as the G7, and is heavily influenced by the politics and ‘speech acts’ of prominent leaders (see Romm 2011). Academic analysis of the ‘securitization’ of climate change has also emerged but falls short of moving beyond the realm of narrative. Nor has it considered the implications of a securitized climate change on foreign aid policies, programming priorities and fund allocation. This chapter seeks to fill this gap by analysing the example of the United Kingdom (UK). It demonstrates that climate change has become ‘securitized’ in some policy circles, if understood to mean the (re)framing of climate change from an environmental and/or developmental issue to a matter of security. However, full securitization has not occurred in the UK, if this is understood to mean treating climate change as an ‘existential threat’, widespread acceptance of this framing, and enacting ‘emergency action’ to deal with the threat (Buzan et al. 1997). Abrahamsen’s (2005: 59) conceptualization of securitization is particularly useful for understanding security framings of climate change: best understood as a gradual process through which political choices are made to conceptualize an issue in a particular way.


Climate Change Security Council United Nations Security Council Security Implication National Security Council 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abrahamsen, Rita (2005) ‘Blair’s Africa: The Politics of Securitization and Fear’, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 30.1: 55–80.Google Scholar
  2. Brauch, Hans Günter (2008) ‘Securitizing Climate Change’, 50th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, New York, 15–18 February.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, Oli, Anne Hammill, and Robert McLeman (2007) ‘Climate Change as the “New” Security Threat: Implications for Africa’, International Affairs, 83. 6: 1141–54.Google Scholar
  4. Buzan, Barry, Jaap de Wilde, and Ole Wæver (1997) Security: A New Framework for Analysis. London: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  5. Carrington, Damian (2013) ‘Climate Change Poses Grave Threat to Security, Says UK Envoy’, The Guardian, 30 June,, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar
  6. Carrington, Damian (2014) ‘Climate Change “Will See More UK Forces Deployed in Conflicts around World”’, The Guardian, 10 November,, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar
  7. CNA (2007) National Security and the Threat of Climate Change. Virginia: The CNA Corporation.Google Scholar
  8. Deen, Thalif (2007) ‘Security Council Accused of Overstepping Bounds’, Inter Press Service News Agency, 12 April,, accessed 14 June 2013.Google Scholar
  9. DFID (2011a) Bilateral Aid Review: Technical Report. London: DFID.Google Scholar
  10. DFID (2011b) Department for International Development Business Plan 2011–2015. London: DFID.Google Scholar
  11. DFID (2011c) DFID Africa Regional Programme Operational Plan 2011–2015. London: DFID.Google Scholar
  12. DFID (2011d) DFID Asia Regional Team Operational Plan 2011–2015. London: DFID.Google Scholar
  13. DFID (2011e) DFID Central Asia Operational Plan 2011–2015. London: DFID.Google Scholar
  14. DFID (2011f) Humanitarian Emergency Response Review: UK Government Response. London: DFID.Google Scholar
  15. DFID (2014a) ‘Statistics on International Development’,, accessed 14 May 2015.Google Scholar
  16. DFID (2014b) Department for International Development: Annual Report and Accounts 2013–2014. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  17. DFID (2014c) ‘Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters Programme’,, accessed 13 May 2015.Google Scholar
  18. DFID, FCO and MoD (2011a) Building Stability Overseas Strategy. London: DFID, FCO and MoD.Google Scholar
  19. DFID, DECC and DEFRA (2011b) UK International Climate Fund: Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty. London: DFID, DECC and DEFRA.Google Scholar
  20. European Commission (2008) Climate Change and International Security-Paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European Council. Brussels: European Commission,, accessed 14 June 2013.Google Scholar
  21. FCO (2012) Conference Report: A Climate and Resource Security Dialogue for the 21st Century. London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office,, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar
  22. Foresight (2011) International Dimensions of Climate Change, Foresight Final Project Report. London: Government Office of Science.Google Scholar
  23. G7 (2015) ‘G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting Communiqué, Lubeck 2015’,, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar
  24. Hague, William (2011) Europe ‘Leading the International Debate on Tackling Climate Change’. London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office,, accessed 15 August 2012.Google Scholar
  25. Hammond, Phillip (2014) Foreign Secretary Speech on Climate Change. London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office,, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar
  26. Harris, Katie (2012) ‘Climate Change in UK Security Policy: Implications for Development Assistance?’ Overseas Development Working Paper 342. London: Overseas Development Institute.Google Scholar
  27. Hartmann, Betsy (2010) ‘Rethinking Climate Refugees and Climate Conflict: Rhetoric, Reality and the Politics of Policy Discourse’. Journal of International Development, 22.2: 233–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. HM Government (2008) National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom: Security in an Interdependent World. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  29. HM Government (2009) Security for the Next Generation: National Security Strategy Update. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  30. HM Government (2010a) Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  31. HM Government (2010b) A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  32. HM Government (2015) Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy: The Next National Security Strategy. House of Commons London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  33. Homer-Dixon, Thomas (1991) ‘On the Threshold: Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict’, International Security, 16.2: 76–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. ICAI (2015) ‘DFID’s Scale-up in Fragile States’,, accessed 14 May 2015.
  35. ICF (2011) International Climate Fund Implementation Plan 2011/12–2014/15. London: DFID.Google Scholar
  36. ICF (2015) ‘International Climate Action’,, accessed 28 April 2015.
  37. International Development Committee (2015) The Future of UK Development Cooperation: Phase 2: Beyond Aid. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  38. IPCC (2014) ‘Summary for Policymakers’, in C.B. Field, V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L White (eds.), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pp. 1–32. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Letwin, Oliver (2015) ‘Conflict Stability and Security Fund Settlement, Financial Year 2015–16: Written Statement’,–questions–answers–statements/written–statement/Commons/2015–03–12/HCWS392/, accessed 14 May 2015.
  40. Mabey, Nick (2010) Facing the Climate Security Threat: Why the Security Community Needs a “Whole of Government” Response to Global Climate Change. Washington, DC: German Marshall Fund of the United States.Google Scholar
  41. McDonald, Matt (2008) ‘Securitization and the Construction of Security’, European Journal of International Relations, 14.4: 563–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Miliband, David and Frank-Walter Steinmeier (2008) ‘Europe Has to Rise to the Security Challenges of Climate Change’, Environment, Conflict and Cooperation, content&task=view&id=1335&Itemid=201, accessed 21 February 2012.Google Scholar
  43. MoD (2014) Strategic Trends Programme: Global Strategic Trends out to 2045 5th Edition. London: Ministry of Defence.Google Scholar
  44. Myers, Norman (1989) ‘Environment and Security’, Foreign Policy, 74: 23–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nakhooda, Smita, Taryn Fransen, Allister Wenzel, Alice Caravani, and Kirsten Stasio (2012) The UK Fast-Start Finance Contribution. London: World Resources Institute and Overseas Development Institute.Google Scholar
  46. NAO (2011) ‘Department for International Development: Aid and the Environment’, Briefing for the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. London: NAO.Google Scholar
  47. New Climate for Peace (2015) ‘Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks’, New Climate for Peace,, accessed 23 April 2015.
  48. Obama, Barack (2015) Remarks by the President in the State of the Union Address. Washington, DC: The White House,–2015, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar
  49. Parry, Emyr Jones (2007) ‘Letter Dated 5 April 2007 from the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council’, UNSC S/2007/186.Google Scholar
  50. Peters, Katie and Janani Vivekananda (2014) Topic Guide: Conflict, Climate and Environment. London: Evidence on Demand and Department for International Development.Google Scholar
  51. Peters, Katie, Mirianna Budmir, and Alice Caravani (2015, forthcoming) Building Resilience to Natural Hazard Related Disasters in Fragile and Conflict Affected States: 10 Things You Should Know. London: Overseas Development Institute.Google Scholar
  52. Romm, Joe (2011) ‘Rove Attacks Obama for Elevating Climate Change as Security Issue, but Bush Admin First Warned It Posed a Serious Threat’, Climate Progress, 2 November,, accessed 14 June 2013.Google Scholar
  53. Schwartz, Peter and Doug Randall (2003) An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security. Washington, DC: Environmental Media Services.Google Scholar
  54. Security Council Report (2011) Monthly Forecast July 2011. New York: Security Council Report.Google Scholar
  55. UN General Assembly (2009a) ‘Climate Change and Its Possible Security Implications, UN General Assembly A/63/L.8/Rev. 1’. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  56. UN General Assembly (2009b) ‘Climate Change and the Possible Security Implications. Report of the Secretary-General UN General Assembly. A/64/350’. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  57. UNSC (2011) ‘Security Council, in Statement, Says “Contextual Information” on Possible Security Implications of Climate Change Important When Climate Impacts Drive Conflict’, Security Council Press Statement SC/10332,, accessed 10 January 2012.Google Scholar
  58. UNSC (2013) ‘Arria Formula Meeting on Climate Change’, Security Council Report,, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar
  59. US Department of Defense (2014) ‘Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap’,, accessed 23 April 2015.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Katie Peters and Leigh Mayhew 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katie Peters
  • Leigh Mayhew

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations