Environmental Change and the New Security Agenda: Implications for Canada's security and environment

By Alec Crawford, Oli Brown, Christine Campeau on June 18, 2008

This paper investigates how environmental change and Canadian security are interlinked. First, it attempts to chart the ways in which global environmental change (such as climate change and environmental mismanagement) affect Canada's domestic security and the welfare of Canadian interests overseas. Three particular challenges stand out: the first is the struggle for control of shipping routes across a warming Arctic; the second is the hunt for new sources of energy; and the third is environmental security in regions of diplomatic, economic and military importance to Canada.

Second, the paper analyzes the links between environment and security from the opposite direction. We assess the environmental implications of Canada's current national security focus on the prevention of terrorism. This approach to Canadian security, which we call "the new security agenda," has been evolving since the early 1990s in response to the growing threat of international terrorism.

In a world of competing priorities and limited budgets, this has inevitably brought the new security agenda into direct competition with other areas of federal policy—including environmental management. The way Canada and its allies pursue their security can have both positive and negative consequences for the environment that must be incorporated into any cost-benefit analysis of Canadian policy; in terms of governance and regulatory impacts, the scope for effective environmental management and the direct environmental impacts of new security measures. Two aspects of the new security agenda have particular relevance for the Canadian environment: the North American quest for energy independence and increased border security.

In essence, this paper argues the environment and its management is not just a "soft policy area"—it can have real security implications. Nevertheless, the environment is still typically seen as an optional "add-on" in times of peace and prosperity, to be ignored in times of stress and conflict. In a globalized world shaped by global environmental problems, this might be a dangerously short-sighted approach.

Report details

IISD, 2008