Advisory letter 14: Climate change and security

May 19, 2009 - nr.14

In conclusion

In future, the Dutch armed forces are likely to be deployed more frequently as a result

of climate change, particularly in response to climate-related natural disasters. Climate

change is a threat multiplier in crisis management operations. To illustrate this fact, this

advisory letter lists conflicts and causes of conflict in various parts of the world that

could be exacerbated by climate change. Climate change might even create an entirely

new geopolitical reality, as is already happening in the Arctic. This letter also notes that

climate change could also lead to more cooperation between states.


Referring back to the WRR report cited above, which advocates taking precautionary

measures in the face of uncertainty, the AIV would note that the Ministry of Defence

is already doing a great deal in this respect. It has guaranteed military capacity for

deployment in international missions and to support national civil authorities in

providing humanitarian emergency aid, both nationally and internationally. The armed

forces have an extensive toolbox available for these tasks, tools that can be deployed

flexibly, depending on the circumstances.


As we have said, whether this is enough in the context of the precautionary principle

applied by the WRR depends in part on the future political debate on this matter, and on

political decision-making on the future of the armed forces, of which the current defence

policy review forms part. This advisory letter, issued at the request of the Ministry of

Defence, is one of the many building blocks which the Ministry will use to construct

future scenarios and define armed forces profiles, producing policy options for the

political debate on the future of the armed forces.


Irrespective of the policy margins that will emerge from this process, the AIV does not

currently have the objective information to allow it with reasonable certainty to quantify

the implications for personnel and equipment, or to give a geographical specification,

of the possible demands for extra military deployment as a result of climate change.

Furthermore, the impact of climate change is never exclusively a defence issue. In

situations where climate impacts on security, the deployment of the armed forces will

be part of a much broader approach that will require close national and international



The AIV would however advise the Ministry of Defence to ensure that the MIVD works

with the AIVD – in so far as it is not already doing so – in permanently focusing more

attention on the implications of climate change for national and international security, in

the context of early warning.


Finally, the AIV would highlight the fact that the armed forces are first and foremost the

State’s instrument of force, intended for use in military operations. At the same time,

however, the Ministry of Defence must leave sufficient scope for its capabilities to be

made available to support the civil authorities as much as possible in upholding the

law, disaster response and humanitarian relief operations. This is, after all, also a core

task of the armed forces, which have many dual-use assets at their disposal and can be

rapidly deployed. This underlines the multiple interests served by the process, already

embarked upon, of creating a more expeditionary force.

Advice request


                                                                                                          Ministry of Defence

                                                                                                          Directorate of

                                                                                                          General Policy Affairs





To         Mr. F. Korthals Altes

            Chairman of the Advisory Council on

            International Affairs

            Postbus 20061

            2500 EB  Den Haag




Date                        10 juli 2008

Our reference        HDAB2008018526

Re                    Climate and security




Dear Mr Korthals Altes,


Following on from the request for advice on climate change, energy and poverty reduction sent by the Minister for Development Cooperation on 15 March, I would like to request an advisory report from the Advisory Council on International Affairs on the expected effects of climate change on the international security situation over the next 20 years. Climate change will come to play an important role as we look ahead to the future of the armed forces (see Parliamentary Papers, House of Representatives 2007-2008, 31 243, no. 6).


Specifically, the government would like to hear the AIV’s thoughts on the following questions:


What effect is climate change expected to have on the international security situation over the next two decades? To what extent will we have to deal with floods, droughts, new border disputes, geopolitical changes, shifting maritime transport routes, increased migration flows and restricted access to natural resources?


What implications will these changes have for the role played by the Dutch armed forces as they are called upon to respond to international humanitarian emergencies and possible conflict situations?


The government would appreciate receiving the report by January 2009, so that the AIV’s conclusions can be taken into account in the current discussion of the future of the armed forces.


I am looking forward to receiving your advisory report.


Yours sincerely,




Minister of Defence

Eimert van Middelkoop


Government reactions
Press releases