Turning up the Heat: Addressing climate-related conflicts

The Turning up the Heat project explores and addresses the links between climate change, natural resource management and conflict.

Many people in the world’s most fragile countries depend directly on natural assets like land, water and forests for their livelihoods. Competition over natural resources is a major driver of violent conflict. These resources are widely affected by a lack of preparedness for dramatic changes to the climate, threatening livelihoods, food supply, water security and stability.

Conflict-affected regions are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather and climate variability. They also often experience poor governance, weak institutions and inequality, which leaves them vulnerable to environmental pressures. These fragilities contain the potential for social tensions and violent conflict. Understanding how these environmental and climate issues contribute to and interact with conflict drivers is the first step in any sustainable peacebuilding effort.

The management of natural resources is a core element of addressing these climate-conflict fragilities. Fair and inclusive governance of natural resources can prevent and resolve resource-related conflicts.

In Mali, for example, conflict-sensitive water management structures and mechanisms have helped address violent conflicts over access to water. Facilitating transboundary cooperation over rivers in Central Asia also illustrates the importance of natural resource governance in fragile contexts.

The case of Kenya, where land acquisition for solar and wind energy has caused conflicts between investors, companies, local governments and communities, shows how conflict-sensitive and participatory management of resources is also necessary in climate change mitigation and adaptation activities.

The understanding of climate-conflict fragilities has informed International Alert’s peacebuilding approach and activities for over 15 years. We have pioneered research into links between climate and conflict, and promoted conflict-sensitive and gender-inclusive management of water and other natural resources.

As the threats posed by climate change become ever more acute and real, the need to understand and effectively address climate-conflict fragilities in local contexts become ever more urgent. The Turning up the Heat project aims to fill the gaps in understanding of these threats in particular contexts and how peacebuilding efforts can best address them.

With support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), International Alert works with communities and governments in fragile and conflict-affected places to understand and address conflicts related to climate and natural resources.

This began in 2021 with initial analytical and scoping work in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Central Asia, which identified the local dynamics and particularities around the links between climate, environment and conflict. Highlights from the studies include:

  • Good and fair resource governance, trust-based citizen-state relations and effective access to public services are most important to effectively cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
  • Cross border resource management is politically sensitive and always to be understood in light of wider tensions, particularly in regions like Central Asia.
  • Many policy-makers have blind spots for the interlinkages and varied ways in which climate change and resource management negatively affect marginalised groups.

This analytical work prepared for the action to strengthen the resilience of communities threatened by these issues. In these processes, we have brought together communities, governments, civil society and scientists to promote understanding, recognition and dialogue. The project developed citizens’ expertise and encouraged the agency of marginalised groups, including refugees and displaced populations. By supporting them through capacity building training, they gained confidence and skills to influence government policies and actions on climate, water and land-related concerns that jeopardise peace and stability.

Building on this work, we are expanding and scaling up these activities in Kenya, Nigeria, and Central Asia. Focusing particularly on how communities and governments can be better equipped to anticipate and prevent climate and natural resource related conflicts, we bring them together to analyse the risks and identify preventative actions. Central to these efforts is to bring peacebuilding, climate and security related actors together to ensure coordinated responses to these risks and related challenges.


International Alert is grateful for the kind support of our donors.
SIDA logo