Conflict Resolution and Climate Change

23 November 2021

November 2021 opened with an important issue for global collective efforts to address climate change; the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26). The conference concluded with the approval of the Glasgow Climate Pact on how countries could achieve a limit to a maximum temperature increase of 1.5oC higher than pre-industrial times.

There are of course supporting and opposing views of this new pact. The supporting groups say that this new pact restores the urgency of implementing the Paris Agreement, while those who oppose view that this new pact is not  ambitious enough to ensure that we can achieve the maximum limit of 1.5o temperature increase as mandated in the Paris Agreement. However, the Glasgow Pact should be accepted as a mutual agreement.

Looking back, the Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU) was formed as a private sector initiative to contribute to efforts to tackle climate change by reducing the incidence of conflicts in the land-based sector. This is a big mandate.  The question that often arises is how  conflict resolution can contribute to efforts to tackle climate change whether through adaptation or mitigation initiatives. How conflict resolution and conflict-sensitive approaches can help the world to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5oC. And lastly, as the contribution is calculated by the amount of carbon emission reduction, can such a calculation be made?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the site level. On the one hand, some conflicts contribute to CO2 emission, such as land and forest conflicts related to deforestation, forest degradation, or forest fires. On the other side, there are also conflicts caused by climate change, for example, conflicts due to increased competition for land and natural resources. Here, conflict resolution initiatives apparently could contribute to efforts to address climate change.

Meanwhile, at the global level, the impact of climate change is getting worse due to unresolved conflicts of interest between countries. Those unresolved conflicts range from the issues about the nomenclature to  the inequality between developed and developing countries in terms of climate justice, to prioritizing the issue of adaptation and mitigation efforts. Here, the COP becomes an arena for conflict resolution through multilateral negotiations to resolve differences and move towards mutual agreement. The Glasgow Pact is expected to be an agreement that resolves these debates.

On the other hand, we need to admit that efforts to prevent and reduce the impact of climate change are also prone to conflict. Especially, if the socialization process to raise awareness and concern about the urgency of climate change action is inadequate. The controversy about climate change continues, and that doesn’t stop the impacts we are facing. Without serious efforts to address these conflicts, the goodwill for climate change efforts could be hampered.

With all the complexity and urgency of climate change, how can the efforts to tackle it proceed optimally? How to  transform the existing controversies and debates into catalysts for constructive change towards collective efforts to address climate change issues?

The first thing we can do is shift the energy of debate into cooperation  with  a  common purpose, namely to prevent the global temperature increase from exceeding 1.5oC above the pre-industrial global temperature. Conflict resolution efforts are one way to build cooperation that will strengthen social bonds that can increase the ability to adapt to climate change.

Based on the current emission accounting methodology, the contribution of conflict resolution efforts are difficult to quantify in the context of mitigation activities but have the potential to be elaborated in climate change adaptation initiatives through a conflict-sensitive approach to the planning of various development efforts.

However, theoretically and intuitively, we feel that with the initiation of conflict resolution at the site level, land and forest governance can be improved and contribute  to the efforts to reduce emissions from the land sector. And this is the realm of climate change mitigation activities. Here, we can assume, conflict resolution works with various other factors (confounding factors) that indirectly contribute to efforts to control climate change at the site level.

Secondly, more importantly conflict resolution efforts can indeed contribute by preventing conflicts from occurring.  IIn order to do so,  we need to adopt a conflict-sensitive approach in planning the climate change control agenda accordingly.

o date, conflict resolution has been carried out reactively like firefighters who come when the fire is already burning, but it would be better if conflict prevention efforts could be integrated in climate change adaptation and mitigation planning. The assumption that we need to agree on is the fact that there is no intervention or policy that is neutral and does not have a negative impact on climate change. So a conflict-sensitive approach can be a key part of the safeguards of the climate change agenda.

These two things are ideas that can be contributed by conflict resolution methodologies and conflict-sensitive approaches as an effort to tackle climate change. Both require commitment followed by hard work. Although if these two ideas are implemented, the struggle for climate change does not necessarily become easy. But certainly, both ideas are worth trying to be part of a long effort to tackle climate change.

Photo by Dikaseva on Unsplash