” Do Nothing To Damage ” In The Direction Of Sustainability In Climate Action In The Amazon

Climate change initiatives in the Amazon rainforest need to be more effective to ensure that their efforts aren’t increasing the likelihood of conflict in weak states.

Recent diplomatic efforts of South American states have put the protection of the Amazon rainforest on the international agenda, including increasing the financial commitments to climate mitigation initiatives. 

However, the current global climate-action frameworks must be more effective to warrant that such initiatives don’t create more instability and insecurity for states affected by climate change. One option is to impart uniform guidelines for incorporating a conflict-sensitive approach to climate-action initiatives and policies. 

With Amazonian nations set to be the leaders of significant economic and climate forums between 2024 and 2025, it is a chance for them to influence an international climate action architecture that can complete sustainable peace in the region.

Changes In The Climate And Conflict

An increasing amount of research conducted by academics on the connection between climate change and conflicts suggests that the latter could in some way aggravate existing (or create new) political, social, and economic conditions which raise the chance of violence involving armed groups (as opposed to acting as an actual driver of conflict). 

This is especially evident in the environment of the Amazon rainforest, which is highly vulnerable to climate change but is also subject to increasing violent crime and the emergence of armed conflict. The routes for trafficking drugs through the Amazon rainforest can boost the risk of environmental crimes, which include forest destruction. 

Additionally, environmental degradation can exacerbate local political, social, and economic vulnerability that, under the glaring absence (or absence of) presence of the state, boosts the influence of criminal organizations, which creates a pattern of violent dynamics.

International climate action efforts to protect tropical rainforests, such as the Amazon, are only now exploring the relationship between security and climate. 

COP 26

At COP 26, more than 140 international leaders signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use to end and reverse the loss of global forests and degradation until 2030. 

The declaration stressed the importance of involving indigenous and local communities as the primary players in attaining that objective. However, it did not address the several security threats that local communities face in the fragile and conflict-affected forests.

There was progress in the aftermath of COP 28 in 2023, where over 90 world leaders could sign the Relief, Recovery, and Peace Declaration. Its declaration is only the second UN climate conference statement explicitly acknowledging the necessity of tackling the interdependence of conflict, climate change fragility, and humanitarian crises. 

The declaration outlines the need to integrate the concept of a conflict-sensitive approach into this agenda. This approach states that climate change mitigation and -adaptation policies should not, at the very least, exacerbate violence in conflict-affected and fragile environments. 

The declaration also pledges to ensure that climate action is a key factor in ensuring peace over the long term. The declaration, however, cannot prepare specific steps or specifications regarding how climate change actors worldwide should manage security risks specific to contexts in diverse regions around the globe, including the Amazon rainforest. Amazon rainforest.

Absence Of Specific Guidelines

The absence of specific guidelines, such as climate finance, should help the urgent need to accelerate international efforts to protect Amazon. 

In the meantime, until more specific guidance (or an agreement) is reached during future UN talks, other international frameworks can still be used as a base despite not directly dealing with the connection between climate action and armed conflict or violence. 

One such framework is the ‘Do not harm’ principle, endorsed by multilateral organizations like the UN and the World Bank Group for project financing and programming in conflict-affected areas. 

This principle is designed to help manage the impact of international assistance in the context of conflict and peace and to pay specific attention to the protection of the local community and the rights of personnel.

Potentially Conflict-Related Risks Arising From Climate Change On The Amazon

In the Amazon, the need to assess and reduce the risks to security and armed conflict that climate change poses is evident. In 2022, the Amazon was the deadliest area in the world for environmental activists and environmentalists, with one out of five deaths worldwide. Colombia is at the top of the list, with 34 percent of the total deaths, then Brazil (19 percent). 

Therefore, expanding environmental projects that involve indigenous communities and local communities without taking into account this context risks increasing the number of civilian deaths.

Climate action projects must also consider the security threats that result from the use of force by non-state militias. This problem is growing more acute since offering cash payments for local and Indigenous peoples to serve ecosystem protection services is becoming a more attractive international financial instrument (including via an initiative like the REDD+ framework and the larger market for carbon credits that is voluntary) to safeguard this Amazon region. 

However, this approach could increase violence against civilians by criminal groups who seek to secure access to financial resources.

Opportunities To Establish The Agenda

Between 2024 and 2025, Amazonian countries will place the protection of forests at the top of the agenda of global climate action, with Brazil being the G20 president and hosting COP 30 and Colombia hosting COP16 on biodiversity. 

This will be an opportunity to raise awareness of the potential adverse effects of climate action in states that are fragile and prone to conflict, as well as within the Amazon and beyond, and to advocate for a more sensitive approach to conflicts as proposed in the UN to warrant that climate-related measures foster sustainable peace.

 In the beginning, Amazonian countries could work to implement this idea into a framework for risk assessment for climate-related actions within the Amazon.

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