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Alexander Verbeek, Diplomat and Founder of the Institute for Planetary Security, shares with us exactly how the Planetary Security initiative developed and what form it should take in the future. As security risks posed by climate change become increasingly urgent, it is time to consider security from a planetary perspective. Apart from meeting on a yearly basis, he believes it is important to expand the initiative, go into affected regions to involve local experts and policy makers. The Netherlands, a country threatened by sea level rise, is taking a prominent role in this process.  

This interview was conducted at the Planetary Security Conference in The Hague, 5-6 December 2016. It is produced by Paul Müller-Hahl (Lichtbilder Filmproduktion) and directed by Stella Schaller (adelphi).

 

"The Planetary Security Conference and the Planetary Security Initiative developed out of the idea that we see world-wide so much impact of climate change and other environmental developments on security, international security, human security, and I saw that there was a community out there that was not communicating as much as they should.

The basic idea of planetary security is to have once a year one meeting where all of these experts in the world come together to talk about planetary security issues. That is the first idea. The second idea is that once you have these experts together, we also bring them in contact with policy makers, to ones that do not know yet the impacts of planetary change on security, but they are the ones that should actually make changes in policy. That is why we come together once a year. I believe that way to develop in the future is that, apart from meeting here once a year, it is very important that we actually reach out and that we go into the regions and have the same kind of meetings that we do here, maybe on a much smaller scale but with some dedicated experts and some influential policy makers and sit together and talk about the impact of climate change on security in this specific region where we are and then develop methodologies and strategies to deal with these challenges.

The Netherlands is a country that is a potential victim of climate change. The western part of the country where most people live, where most of the economy is based, is below sea level. Like every other country in the world, we are facing potentially one and a half, maybe two meters of sea level rise by the end of this century. We have to deal with that threat, we have dealt with it for ages because we have always been under threat of water but now that the sea levels are actually rising and much faster than the 20 cm we have until now, we have to deal with that.

The impact of climate change and the potential danger that water poses to our countries, that is something we are used to and that we are working on and we have the expertise to help all kinds of other countries in the world with these challenges. You find Dutchmen working in Bangladesh, or find them in the deltas of the world from Vietnam to Egypt and to other places. That is one aspect we are working on but the other is the geopolitical side. We have known for centuries that the only way to deal with these environmental threats is to work together. We used to do that between farms and later between cities and now we do it between countries and that is typically something that we have to deal with on a global scale, as well. We are now facing some kind of new enemy, which is rising sea levels but all kind of other environmental threats that we are dealing with and we need cooperation, we need a multilateral framework to deal with these issues.

The Planetary Security Conference is, in a way, built on this philosophy. There is a few other pillars I can talk about. What we are doing is bringing together the best experts in the world that know about the security impacts of climate change. All these experts are here now in the Peace Palace, a very traditional place to talk about these issues, it is a new issue but talking about working together to promote peace in the world is not at all a new issue, we do it already for more than a hundred years. So that is what we are doing here, what we are aiming for and that is the Dutch tradition and very much a tradition of the city of The Hague, which is so kind to host us here. Thank you."