Co-operation on environmental and energy issues contributes to preventing tensions, building confidence and promoting good neighbourly relations in the OSCE region and therefore it must be strengthened, underlined senior officials and experts at high-level discussion taking place on 16 and 17 October in Vienna.
OSCE participating States convened to discuss the implementation of OSCE commitments on environment and energy in an annual Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting.
“When it comes to environmental and energy security, we need innovative thinking and approaches that go beyond national borders,” said Michael Linhart, Austrian Deputy Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs. “The recent series of hurricanes that have devastated parts of the Caribbean and the United States Southern coast, but also the devastating storms, flooding and wildfires in Europe and in Central Asia, are painful warnings in that respect.”
Vuk Žugić, Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, said that the OSCE region faces a game-changing situation, with an unprecedented confluence of transnational and global challenges, including devastating extreme weather events, climate challenges and other risks. “The OSCE comprehensive concept of security is fully compatible with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda provides benchmarks to asses and reinforce the Organization’s contribution to sustainable development in the region. In this context, takeaways from this meeting are very important.”
The work in the Economic and Environmental Dimension contributes to a number of Sustainable Development Goals including: Goal 6 on water, Goal 7 on energy; Goal 11 on resilient cities, Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production, Goal 13 on climate action, Goal 16 on inclusive societies and Goal 17 on partnerships.
Kirsi Madi, Director of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, noted that drivers of conflict have much in common with drivers of disaster risk. “Preventive approaches should include a disaster risk reduction perspective to address the causes of both conflict and disaster risks. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 is a relevant instrument for addressing the security implications of disaster risk and climate change.”
Laurent Fabius, the French President of the Constitutional Council and former COP21 President, focused on the close links between climate change and the environment; security and climate and how the fight against climate change contributes to international peace and security: “The OSCE, as the largest regional security organization in the world, can and should increase its involvement in this field. It can contribute to sharing experiences and good practices with regard to climate change adaptation measures and the development of climate resilient infrastructure. This is a crucial issue and the OSCE should devote a significant share of its activities to it.”
The Secretary General of the International Civil Defence Organization Vladimir Kuvshinov stressed the importance of civil defence; the firemen, ambulance drivers, rescue teams – often invisible until the day when the disaster strikes. “We have a special responsibility to prepare the civil population to fight against disaster and to train civil protection personnel. Our ultimate goal is to create an international network of centres to promote the exchange of information on disasters and to maintain the preparedness of national, regional and international forces to respond to disasters.”
The conference brought together some 200 representatives from the diplomatic and business community, governments, international organizations, academia and civil society.