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Climate change and peace

Madeleine Mosse, CEO at Plan for Peace, explores how peacebuilding tools help us tackle the most pressing issue of our times
Madeleine Mosse, Plan for Peace

This article first appeared in our World Environment Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 05 June 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Climate change is no longer confined to academic discussions or high-level meetings.

It has become a defining issue of our time, impacting every aspect of our lives – from food security to public health and even our economic stability.

Some 3.6 billion people live in areas highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Between 2030 and 2050, the WHO estimates 250,000 deaths per year will be due to climate change-related factors such as under-nutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

Climate and conflict

From a peacebuilding standpoint, climate change has the potential to exacerbate existing challenges like food insecurity, water scarcity or resource management. This then increases the likelihood of violent conflicts.

In fact, climate change has already been a contributing factor to violent conflict in regions like Syria, where tensions escalated due to perceived government mishandling of a national drought, and in Sudan, where conflicts have partially centred on access to land, water and other essential resources.

So what can we, as peacebuilders, offer in this complex and nuanced landscape?

From our perspective, one thing is clear. Tackling climate change can only be effective if it involves all stakeholders – in other words, we need to find ways to work with every level of society, from individuals and communities to national and international policymakers.

For instance, the mine required to extract the minerals we need to power the green energy transition may create jobs. It may also destroy biodiversity-rich natural habitat and local people’s livelihoods.

How can these seemingly opposing sides meet?

Peacebuilding gives us the tools to make this kind of wide-ranging negotiation and dialogue possible.


Interested in learning more about how to have difficult conversations? Join Plan for Peace for Crossing the Divide, an exciting new public dialogue series.

It brings together high-profile individuals from opposing ‘sides’ who have transcended their own hate and violence to understand each other.

Moderated by Jo Berry, the head of peacebuilding at Plan for Peace and one of the UK’s foremost conflict transformation experts.

The power of mediation

The process of peacebuilding uses tried and tested principles such as open listening, empathy and non-violent problem-solving to make sure that everyone feels seen and heard.

This foundation is what lays the ground for difficult conversations to be had.

Seasoned peace activist Scilla Elworthy, founder of Plan for Peace, attributes the success of a round of nuclear mediation talks she hosted to the fact that she had installed expert meditators beneath the negotiation room as a means by which to help induce calm.

At Plan for Peace, we work with an approach called Infrastructures for Peace – an inclusive, informed and structured approach that can help build the necessary multi-level engagement that we need to tackle climate change.

Peacebuilding in action

Climate change fuels conflict. As peacebuilders we are being called upon to employ our skills to both peacefully transform violence and to help prevent environmental catastrophe.

Peacebuilders have the skills to facilitate dialogue, negotiations and other inclusive processes that bring actors together from across governments, civil society, businesses and academia to find sustainable solutions to tackling climate change and to reducing its impact on communities.

Peacebuilders can train and mobilise actors on the ground to step in and solve disputes that arise from issues such as resource scarcity and mass migration, and can help find collaborative and conflict-sensitive approaches to preventing further environmental degradation.

At the same time, peacebuilders can work with communities to devise and advocate for effective policy solutions that address the root causes of climate change and conflict.

To tackle climate change, we have to work together. Peacebuilding can equip us with the tools we need to facilitate the kind of cooperation that can help turn this tide around.

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