NATO Members adopted the New Strategic Concept on the 19th of November.
The document, the second in NATO’s history and first after 1999, will constitute the roadmap for the Alliance’s military planning and strategic activities in the next ten years.
Notwithstanding the increased attention given to climate change in the past months, which was witnessed, for instance, by Secretary General’s speeches, the New Strategic Concept only mention it once, and in the context of “key environmental and resource constraints” (within the “Security Environment” paragraph, bullet 15). The low relevance conferred to climate change in NATO’s future is indeed not unexpected, and also reflects the Groups of Experts’ document. First, because the document is only a general roadmap of NATO’s activity in the future. It outlines on purpose the Alliance’s activities and strategic challenges in general and brief terms. This reflects the need to produce a manageable and comprehensible document, which would reach and inform the broad public as well. More importantly, it is the outcome of months of hard work to achieve a compromise among strongly different interests, which see NATO through different lengths and interpret the Alliance defensive scope (and action) in diverse ways. Second, more urgent and pertinent issues required to be defined, like the Transatlantic Treaty Organization’s military outreach (therefore the geographic meaning of Article 5 commitments), particularly after the Afghan war. Third, prudence has to be on the table when defining strategic challenges, since the risks of overstretching always loom, which is particularly true when coupled with the effects of the economic and financial crisis, which already cut the defence budgets of many countries. Forth, last but not least, climate change belongs to NATO’s competences only as much as it declined in terms of human security.
To see how and, most importantly, if climate change will be handled by the military organization’s, we have to wait. Maybe only until the release of the next IPCC report.