Imagining Peace & Security in a Fast Changing Environment
On NATO 2030 as Force for Good
Action on Climate Change and Security?
In the lead up the Summit of NATO leaders in Brussels on 14 June, the alliance is preparing to include climate change among the top security issues to be addressed in the next ten years. The NATO 2030 Initiative announced in June 2020 is set to help address climate change and allied nations could commit to reducing emissions by their militaries and act to reduce the security threats posed by a changing climate and environmental degradation. Military emissions can be a large percentage of total emissions and some NATO members have military emissions exceeding those of entire countries.
On 23–24 March 2021, NATO Foreign Ministers approved a specific agenda on climate change and security. An action plan will follow to lay out what NATO will do to increase awareness by monitoring and tracking climate change, to operate in the new environment and to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“NATO has recognised climate change as a security challenge for many years. Now we are stepping up our efforts through NATO 2030. And I expect NATO Leaders to approve an ambitious action plan on the security impact of climate change at our Summit on the 14th of June. As part of our substantive and forward-looking agenda to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow”.
— NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Change is definitely in the air everywhere. Breaking news this week was that investors and judges have the oil industry over a barrel through a series of landmark boardroom and courtroom defeats as reported in “The Day the World Changed for Big Oil”.
An Independent Civil Society’s Perspective
In response to the opportunity for civil society organizations to contribute input in the NATO 2030 process, the informal NCWES (North Atlantic Civil Society Working Group on Environment and Security) was formed to exchange ideas and produce a report addressed to the NATO Secretary-General ahead of the NATO Summit of Allied leaders on 14 June 2021.
The report — involving 30 writers and contributors from among the 70 NGO and think tank representatives and individual members of the NCWES — contains 116 policy options and practical recommendations to be considered in the NATO 2030 process which can help strengthen NATO in a time of new environmental-related challenges in the interest of promoting sustainable peace and security for all.
The report’s official launch took place on June 1 during a virtual event hosted by the American Security Project (ASP) in Washington, D.C. and featured a presentation of the report, a panel discussion, and Q&A. The forthcoming recording of the launch event will be worth watching.
A Unification of Forces for Good?
The NATO 2030 initiative is being developed at a time when humanity and planet earth are in the middle of a perfect storm. With the help of COVID19, considered to be an evolutionary impulse by many, the realities of the climate change challenge have more firmly nested into humanity’s collective awareness. Whether the foundations for lasting, not just sustainable, peace and security can be realized before the decade is over will depend greatly on the authenticity of our intentions, the flow of resources (investments) towards bold regenerative action plans, and greatly improved ways of measuring and managing for success that truly, if not exclusively, enhances the future of life. It’s all hands on deck, failure is not an option, and time is of the essence. The real challenge will be one of coming together with focussed intention… and to cohere as ‘Forces for Good’.
“A Force for Good is action inspired by a genuine concern for others. When we act with compassion, the seeds we plant today can change the course of our shared tomorrow” — HH Dalai Lama
The world is at the beginning of a decade during which our human enterprise must reconnect with its true and original sources of life to build back better within a fast-changing world. A ‘Global Reset’ of great, regenerative, financial, and/or post-pandemic proportions is said to be well on its way. A nagging question remains whether any of these resets will provide the transformative, societal change and wellbeing most of humanity and Nature have been longing for and deserve. Will these resets (algorithms, operating systems, source codes) be guided and informed by the intelligence and wisdom of Nature, our hearts, and original values and principles? Will they be democratic and ensure our freedoms? Will the reset of our human enterprise and civilization strategically harmonize people and planet for the wellbeing and flourishing diversity of all life?
A Pivotal Decade for the Future of Life
The decade from 2021–2030 is when the seventeen interconnected SDGs are to be achieved, yet an embarrassing funding gap of $ 3–5 trillion per year remains. There are signs of hope. Assets under management (AUM) following ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) criteria might fill this gap, at least in part; they are projected to grow from approximately 10% or $38 trillion of AUM in 2020 to possibly 33% or $ 53 trillion by 2025 (assuming a fast pandemic induced 15% growth rate).
The idea of capital becoming a Force for Good, raising the bar for everyone, is a powerful one. A definition is now emerging of what it means to be a ‘Force for Good’ in the financial industry. The ‘Force for Good’ Project on the Future of Capital supported the UN Secretary General’s Strategy and the Roadmap for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A comprehensive report described how global financial industry leaders are transforming capitalism for a sustainable future.
Worrisome, if not an existential risk, is the fact that seed and early development stage investments in whole system enterprises engaged in prototyping a regenerative civilization remain heavily undercapitalized. This is a Black Swan type of systemic blind spot that needs to be tackled decisively. It is also the greatest opportunity of a lifetime for philanthropic and impact investors as well as the crowd to leverage their capital as a Force for Good.
Let us not delay being a Force for Good to deliver decisive impact sooner than later. Now is also the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. Biodiversity conservation globally was receiving somewhere in the range of USD 124–143 billion in 2019, corresponding to a mere 0.12–0.14% of global GDP. These financial flows need to increase by 4–5 times to $ 722–967 billion per year by 2030. That amount happens to be in the range of the combined $ 930 billion budget or ‘Bootprint’ of NATO countries in 2018. It begs the question whether needed investments for the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration are not one of the least expensive and highest priority interventions to sustain peace, security, freedom, and prosperity. Aren’t we all weary of sending our kin into another war to fight kin? And who would the enemy be this time? Nature, because she is indomitable, or should it really be the enemy within us we do not dare to face?
The Future is Now
Imagine for just a moment that there would be political commitment, perhaps as part of NATO 2030’s action plans, to proclaim a Decade of Peace and Security. Consider it time-out for a 10-year cease-fire or ‘NATO 2030 Reset’ to breathe life into our post-pandemic world to constitute secure foundations for a 21st Century regenerative civilization. Can you imagine how such a proclamation would not only align with, but also support and connect the dots between the SDGs, the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, Human Rights, the Rights of Nature, the Paris Agreement, and the CBD all at once? Dreaming on outside of the box… could a coherent initiative along these lines at this moment in history be a linch pin to mobilize Forces for Good everywhere to create a perfect storm building lasting peace and security?
When it comes to the Future of Life prospects are highly uncertain and fraught with unacceptable risks unless we restore, reinforce, and maintain the integrity of our life supporting ecosystems. Let us not be blinded by the conviction that technology will solve all our problems. We must invest in, reciprocate, and work with Nature — biocultural territories of life — to avoid a future that will otherwise be ghastly. It is hard to comprehend that when trillions of dollars are created out of thin air to build back better, the infrastructure investments that must come first and sustain life and our lives — investments in Nature, appear to be an afterthought or rounding error. Worldwide, over the last 12 months alone, central banks and central governments provided some $27 trillion in additional liquidity through deficits and money-printing credits (almost $7.8 trillion and counting in the US alone). The world’s 2,365 billionaires enjoyed a $4 trillion boost to their wealth during the first year of the pandemic ($1 trillion in the US), increasing their fortunes by 54%. It would seem mobilizing a $ 1 trillion annual budget for Nature should be a no brainer. It is about intention, attention, and allocating flow to life. Isn’t the moment now to ensure money flows with gravity like water (trickling down rather than up as in permaculture) to provide the nutrient flows that give life to and grow all that humanity and Nature need to thrive?
“It is incumbent on experts in any discipline that deals with the future of the biosphere and human well-being to eschew reticence, avoid sugar-coating the overwhelming challenges ahead and “tell it like it is.” Anything else is misleading at best, or negligent and potentially lethal for the human enterprise at worst “. — Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future
Planting trees on some military bases of NATO members, as has been set in motion, is a fig leave of a net zero action step. Unless,… it would be a prelude to educate and train NATO forces to support women, youth, indigenous communities, and regenerative entrepreneurs in communities around the globe to plant 1 trillion trees by 2030 (already a goal of a growing network of tree planting organizations).
The ethical, responsible planting of trees benefiting from indigenous wisdom and the best of science is indeed one of the most effective ways to address climate change, regenerate Nature, and build resilient communities all at once. A relatively small percentage of NATO’s annual budget committed to a tree planting offensive would address climate change, build peace and security, and improve the livelihoods of many. Why not pick this low hanging fruit, initiate a Decade of Peace and Security, and commit to verifiably lowering emission levels that meet or exceed the Paris Accord?
And it is thus within this context, amplified by the world’s seriously dated post-WWII security arrangements, that NATO leadership will encounter a unique opportunity to cease the moment to develop a meaningful action plan that incorporates becoming an authentic ‘Force for Good’. May they be inspired. May they find the strength to be bold and brave.
Steven Lovink is a co-founder and senior advisor of the Institute for Environmental Security, a founder of Power of One, and a contributor to the NCWES and Capital as a Force for Good reports; his work focusses on whole system finance and entrepreneurship integrating a new source code for life for human enterprise. He is a lead-author of Imagining Philanthropy for Life — A Whole-System Strategy to Transform Finance and to Grow True Wealth. Statements and views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.