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Climate change in UK security policy: implications for development assistance?

Working papers

Written by Katie Peters

This Working Paper explores changes related to the inclusion and framing of climate change in UK security policy and the possible implications for overseas development assistance (ODA).

This research indicates that the strongest links between climate change and security are present in the most recent national security reports and among representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ministry of Defence (MOD), but this framing has not as yet translated into tangible mechanisms to take this agenda forward—although the ‘desired impact’ of the security framing is somewhat difficult to pin down.

If the intention is to raise the profile and urgency of action on climate change, then this has been achieved, certainly at the international level. However, there are as yet no clear answers to the policy questions arising as a result of this process. There remains a disconnect between the climate change and security framings different arms of the government within the UK employ.

These findings pose several challenges to the UK’s commitment to a cross-departmental approach to addressing climate change. Moreover, current institutional and policy arrangements provide little clarity on how to overcome these challenges. Nevertheless, because of built-in ‘firewalls’ that protect Department for International Development (DFID) funding from being manipulated or subsumed under broader security objectives, the risks of climate change ODA becoming securitised under its control seem to have been kept at bay for the time being.

Katie Harris