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Climate change and security in North Africa

The impact of climate change is increasing exponentially across the world, and Africa will be one of the hardest-hit regions. North Africa is expected to face increasing temperatures, droughts, and decreasing and/or varying levels of rainfall and groundwater levels. This paper contributes to a better understanding of the links between climate change, development and security in North Africa, with a focus on water and energy in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Research Paper

Published on 8 February 2021

Author(s): Sophie Desmidt

In this paper, we apply the concept of ‘cascading climate risks’ to explain how climate change has spillover effects across different sectors and policy domains. We have identified three sets of climate-related security and development risks for Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. These include:

1. risks related to the decreasing natural resources and in particular water,
2. risks for the loss of (rural) livelihoods and rising inequalities, and
3. risks related to the unintended (negative) consequences of incoherent (climate change) policies.

In a context of existing socio-political and economic grievances, the pressures caused by global warming, alongside current weaknesses in governance structures and the absence of effective regional cooperation, can potentially lead to further fractures in the already fragile social contract between governments and citizens in North Africa.

The cascading risks and challenges that North African governments and citizens face due to the climate emergency require the attention from European policymakers, given the strong trade, social and financial relations and ties between North Africa and Europe. Cascading climate risks mean that adaptation strategies will have an impact both within and outside Europe and North Africa. Hence, there will be the need to ensure policy coherence between environmental, trade and socio-economic concerns and a much needed, long-term and inherently political effort to tackle climate change in the next decades. 

Topics: Foreign Policy