While climate and environmental threats are increasingly featuring in country’s economic, military and security strategic risk outlooks, analysis of the implications is far less comprehensive than for other threats to national security such as terrorism or nuclear proliferation for example.

The potential for direct and indirect impacts and a web of interactions with other evolving conditions (demographics, governance, urbanization, balances of trade, conflict etc.) complicate projections.

Nevertheless, growing evidence shows how a degraded environment and climatic change can be a driver of instability and conflict with a wide range of spillover effects.

At the same time, disputes over natural resources are a persistent challenge to international peace, security, and economic development.

Natural resources (such as oil, gas, minerals, timber and water) are a major source of national income for many countries and, when managed effectively, can also provide jobs, infrastructure and livelihoods for local populations.

Resource development has also become a key objective for donor development strategies in fragile states, on the assumption that extractive sector development can contribute to stability and security.

Yet academics, researchers and policy-makers have already highlighted a great many situations whereby natural resource disputes have fed into, undermined, and enflamed situations of violent conflict and instability.

Natural resources can be a source of grievance, which may be related to the inequitable distribution of benefits from natural resources, the lack of opportunities for marginalized groups, or environmental and social harm caused by the unsustainable extraction of resources. 

Chatham House is exploring these links with the aim of generating new thinking on a range of underexplored issues including: the intersections between effective environmental management and peace-building; the ways in which the international community can or should intervene in international natural resource disputes; whether the extractive industries can go beyond ‘do no harm’ and actively contribute to peace in fragile and conflict-affected situations, and the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human well-being, stability and security.