OSCE High-Level Climate Conference Highlights Cross-Border Cooperation

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: July 9, 2023; 19:14 ♦ (Vindobona)

Addressing climate-related challenges and security risks through enhanced cross-border cooperation took center stage at the OSCE High-Level Conference on Climate Change, held at the Hofburg in Vienna. Among those attending the conference were high-level representatives of the OSCE participating states and partners for cooperation, climate security experts and practitioners, and representatives of international organizations.

Speakers at the High-Level Conference on Climate Change providing opening remarks. / Picture: © OSCE / Micky Kroell (CC BY-ND 4.0)

The participants engaged in discussions on collaborative approaches among participating States to tackle the impact of climate change and explored ways in which the OSCE can further support these efforts. The conference also welcomed representatives from international organizations, civil society, climate security experts, and practitioners.

Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid highlighted the OSCE's early recognition of climate challenges and its continuous efforts in regional cooperation to strengthen climate action since its inception in 1975. She emphasized the significance of the conference as a platform to reflect on past accomplishments and generate innovative ideas to advance climate action.

"Today, we gather at a moment of great challenge in the security landscape, including the impact of climate change. This conference aims to build on our work and generate ideas that propel us further," Schmid stated.

The OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Bujar Osmani, North Macedonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, underlined the importance of addressing climate change and its related factors within a comprehensive security framework. He highlighted their role as drivers of insecurity, conflict, and migration from vulnerable regions. Osmani expressed North Macedonia's commitment to a people-oriented approach and human security, offering to lead initiatives aimed at assisting individuals in confronting present and future challenges.

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg attended the OSCE Climate Change Conference, where he helped open the conference and stressed that climate change threatens security, stability, and peace. He stressed the importance of determination, innovation, and global cooperation to combat climate change. He underscored the relevance of the OSCE as an organization for comprehensive security and environmental issues. The conference discussed the role of regional cooperation formats in the fight against climate change and the contribution of the OSCE. The importance of international cooperation in climate change mitigation was highlighted.

The conference provided a platform to address specific challenges, including the impacts of the Ukraine war on climate security and climate action, as well as opportunities for enhanced cooperation across the region.

"As Secretary-General, I take pride in the work we do, and it has been inspiring to hear how the OSCE's support is making a difference. However, the purpose of this conference is not solely to reflect on our achievements but to explore new avenues for action," Schmid emphasized.

Schmid presented her vision for the future, outlining key steps to advance climate action. These included investing in data-driven preventive and risk-informed policymaking, developing an integrated approach to address climate vulnerabilities in conflict or crises, mainstreaming climate considerations throughout the OSCE's work, and establishing an OSCE Climate Fund.