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These 11 EU countries want climate to be at the heart of the bloc's foreign policy

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By Alice Tidey
A couple stands on what was an ancient packhorse bridge exposed by low water levels at Baitings Reservoir in Yorkshire, England, Aug. 12, 2022.
A couple stands on what was an ancient packhorse bridge exposed by low water levels at Baitings Reservoir in Yorkshire, England, Aug. 12, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jon Super   -  

Eleven European Union countries on Monday launched a new group to bolster the bloc's climate diplomacy and place it at the heart of the EU's foreign and security policy. 

The inaugural meeting of this new so-called "Group of Friends" spearheaded by Germany and Denmark took place in Luxembourg before a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. 

Ministers from Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden also took part.

"We had a meeting of those who, in their capacity as foreign ministers, are once again making it clear that the climate crisis is our greatest security threat of this century," German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters. 

"We are seeing in a brutal way that the climate crisis is increasingly becoming a security crisis and that every measure to protect the climate is also a contribution to global peace and international security.

"The more renewable energies we expand worldwide, the more we can sharply counter the climate crisis as a conflict and thus also make a contribution to the climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in November of this year," she added.

In a statement, the group said it will focus on enhancing "the nexus between climate and security within EU foreign policy", and on accelerating the global energy transition and the phasing out of fossil fuels in order to respect commitments made under the 2015 Paris Climate agreement. 

They described the climate crisis as "an existential threat to humanity, international peace, and security" and said that "global climate action is still falling short to achieve the 1.5 degrees and the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

For Olivia Lazard, a fellow at Carnegie Europe, this new group is "a good move, a long-awaited move."

"The fact that they're framing now climate action to a certain extent under the umbrella of the foreign and defence policy is really important," she told Euronews.

Yet, she said, the initiative "is still fairly limited in terms of the scope."

The member states taking part want the EU, through its flagship "Green Deal" regulation, to take leadership in mitigation action and bolster solidarity with more vulnerable countries worldwide.

They also said the 27-country bloc needs to strengthen alliances with like-minded partners ahead of COP27 taking place in November in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

One of the limits of the initiative, Lazard said, is that this new group appears to view climate change through the prism of the same old foreign and security policy rulebook when it is upending the very definition of threats and risks facing the EU.

"I think that it will demonstrate that the foreign and defence policy framework for the EU is not fit for purpose anymore for a climate-disrupted world," she said.

"The way in which the world is changing as a result of climate change and as a result of the competition over natural resources but also over power models and transition models, is going to show very quickly that we need to think very intently of the sort of mutually reinforcing links between internal regional policy — the way that the Green Deal was designed — and the way in which we engage with international partners.

"We really need to rethink the notion of security very fundamentally and very multi-dimensional," she said.