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Host: Hello, my name is Claire Heffron and welcome to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy podcast on the latest issues, advancing peace, security and international cooperation. As horrific scenes of Australia's bushfires and recent intense flooding that has struck Indonesia, a growing number of experts have shown the general nature of climate related risks and track their impact on politics, peace and conflict.
Host: In this episode, we discussed climate action with an influential leader on climate change and founder of a climate change initiative. And as disarmament is integral to the safeguarding and promotion of security, development and human rights, hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year on disarmament operations. We discussed this issue with an author of the new book a guide to international disarmament law.
Host: First, we speak with Alexander Verbeek, he's a Dutch environmentalist, diplomat and former strategic policy advisor. He created the Planetary Security Initiative where representatives from 75 countries meet annually on the climate change security relationship. Firstly, what are the benefits of climate action? And where did you start?
Mr Alexander Verbeek: We worked on the solutions section and I focused first of all on, it was basically split in two, like, how did we get into trouble we're in now considering climate change and everything else? And then the main thing was, of course, how can we get out of this problem? So I started explaining in the past 200 years, the tremendous progress we've made in all kinds of things, and we have more democracy, there's more healthcare, there's more, we live twice as long as we used to live in the early 1800s. child mortality is dramatically going down just in my lifetime from 18% to just 4%, which is still high, of course, but it's such a progress. In 1972, The Club of Rome came with all the scientists was there warning saying, well, there's limits to the growth, you know, If everything is growing and more people more economy, we need more resources, we produce more waste, but the planet is not growing, that stays the same size, somewhere that's not going to fit. And they said somewhere between now and ‘72, in the next hundred years, we're bound to get into trouble. Of course, since then we've seen more and more that happened, we've tried more and more to do things about it. And that brought us to the debate about solutions and also the kind of impact that we already experienced. And we're bound to experience with more climate change and the other environmental challenges that we're looking at.
Host: What is the science of climate change? And are there any doubts?
Mr Alexander Verbeek: On climate change, the basic science is quite simple. It is just 19th century knowledge already 19th century scientists said that if you burn a lot of fossil fuels, and you produce a lot of CO2, it will form a kind of blanket around the earth that keeps us warmer. Of course, scientists, if you put two scientists in the room, you normally have three opinions. So, you can you can talk about all kinds of details. But there's no serious climate scientists in the world that denies that climate change is very serious. It is manmade. It is mainly caused by CO2 but there’s a lot of other reasons and the CO2 is mainly produced by burning fossil fuels. But there's a lot of other reasons as well until I guess, the early 1980s, this was never discussed as something that is either true or not true and then especially the fossil fuel industry started to campaign of misinformation in creating the idea as if the scientists did not yet agree and they've been effective in stalling the debate about taking action and solutions so they could keep selling fossil fuels because politicians started to believe that the science was not settled, maybe it was not true. There are leaders of important countries that call this a Chinese hoax. This misunderstanding has been so damaging in taking the right action. It's a bit comparable to the tobacco industry. When I grew up, you had pictures of doctors and you know, in a white coat with a cigarette and saying, you know, this purifies my lungs, it's good for you. For a long time that stalled taking effective action on making regulations, selling less cigarettes and taking action against you know, the enormous amount of lung cancer that has been caused
Host: What are the challenges?
Mr Alexander Verbeek: I think for each individual, it is difficult to grasp how big and how serious this problem actually is. You feel as an individual, you know, what can I do? I will fly less or take other measures. I'm just one out of the 7 billion on this planet. Does that really matter? And if everybody says so, we get nowhere and that is the same record, as The Tragedy of the Commons, you know, it’s always your neighbour or somebody else that's responsible for the problem. And states have for a long time been doing the same as well. Some said, well, it's the other state that produced more of the greenhouse gases in the past, or at this moment, somebody else is doing a lot. And I think the brilliance of the Paris Agreement in 2015, is finally diplomats found a formula that countries, practically all countries in the world agreed to, to the Paris Agreement and agree that we are going to take action, basically, we're going to do as much as we can. Is that enough? Well, no. Is it the brilliant agreement? Yes. I think diplomatically speaking it is. I was amazed how good the result was. But it's not yet enough. But it's a very good start. I think Churchill might call this the beginning of the beginning, which has to begin somewhere. So it's at the individual level, at the state level, it says all levels that you can take action that you have to realise that that you have to start yourself, I think companies are very interesting to look at. There are many companies that now realise that if you become more sustainable, that is not only good for the planet, it's also good for your business model, you're among the first movers. And actually, often you can, you can earn back your investment. Let's say I want to produce less package, I want to use less packaging for the product that I make that sounds like others expensive, because we need some kind of new design. But actually, at the end of today, you need less material, you have to transport less material, it is less work to package the whole thing because you have less packaging, and then it's cheaper to transport it and at the end, you have less waste. So, it could easily be and there's many examples that in such a case, that's actually good for your business model.
Host: Do you think the climate change narrative is shifting?
Mr Alexander Verbeek: There's a long way to go. But yes, I do see that the narrative is changing. So, these cool summers with these massive heat waves all over the northern hemisphere has one positive effect, that people that never really spoken about climate change before and now suddenly realised, like, wow, this was really extreme. And I saw it here and then I went somewhere on holiday and there we had the same problem. And then after the holidays, my friends came back and wherever they went, it was also so hot. And now when I'm sitting in the metro in Stockholm, where I live, I hear people sitting next to me talking about climate change as made the realisation that something is really fundamentally changing on this planet, and that we therefore have to take action I think that is much broader recognised now.
Host: Disarmament is integral to the safeguarding and promotion of security, development and human rights. Over the past 50 years, many multilateral disarmament treaties have been concluded and form an integral part of international law today Dominika de Beauffort at the GCSP spoke to Tobias Vestner and Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen, GSCP Associate Fellow, an honorary professor at the University of Pretoria. Tobias Vestner is the co-author of our newest publication, A Guide to International Disarmament Law, which seeks to fill a gap in the existing literature.
Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen: I think it was clear to us that there was a real gap in the market over the last two decades, we've only had two books that have come out on Disarmament law. One was quite a personal account by very experienced Danish diplomat, and the other, which dates all the way back to 2001 was broader on all forms of arms control but hasn't been updated since. So, for us, there was a real gap in the market and there's so much disarmament negotiations and some treaties have been adopted since the early 2000s. We thought there was a real need to take a state of the legal branch of disarmament law and see where we are
Ms Dominika de Beauffort: Okay, but how does your guide bring a new perspective to existing disarmament applications?
Mr Tobias Vestner: Well, I think on the one hand it's holistic so really looks at the five global disarmament treaties, but also on related instruments and treaty. So, I think that's really an added value. On the other hand, breaking the different themes of disarmament treaties or disarmament law, actually, into different chapters, I think is really a novel approach and with that, really give some new clarification, etc. But that also having said that allows for certain really in-depth legal analysis, I think there's a lot of really legal content really broken down into the details, that is really I think, kind of quite an achievement
Ms Dominika de Beauffort: Okay, but then disarmament is often use this very generic term to say arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. Do you cover all these aspects in your book?
Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen: Yes, but our focus is on disarmament and by disarmament, we mean treaties and law that focuses on the destruction of weapons. Now you're right, in arms control disarmament, they sometimes use the synonyms. Some people say disarmament is part of arms control. Some people say the opposite. But for us the focus was on treaties and law where a stockpile destruction is at the heart. And then around that there are a series of other obligations, prohibitions on development, on manufacturing, on transfer, and of course on us, but the heart of the disarmament treaty should be the destruction of the weapons. Non-proliferation is a considerably narrower term. And that's about preventing in particular weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of either certain states, and in particular, non-state actors.
Ms Dominika de Beauffort: Okay, and are there any new insights or something you discovered during your research?
Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen: I think for us, the main trend that we've seen over the last 20-25 years is a move away from IHL law of armed conflict. prohibitions purely on the use of a weapon during armed conflict, to embracing a more disarmament approach, when the anti-personnel mine ban convention was drafted in 1997. There were two options, they could have gone for an IHL instrument, or they could have gone for this broader disarmament instrument. And there was a determination on the part of the diplomats and the NGOs that were supporting the prohibition of these weapons that we needed to go broad, we needed to ban these weapons, not just in the situation of armed conflict, but also in peacetime. And I think that trend has since developed, so we've seen the Convention on Cluster Munitions, for example. And more recently, the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons, all of them have followed this broader disarmament approach.
Ms Dominika de Beauffort: Okay, then Tobias, how do you see the future for international disarmament law?
Mr Tobias Vestner: Well, speculating about the future is always hard. So I think it's really hard to say anything concrete, but I had when I find interesting over the last couple of years or decades even is there has been blockages and deadlocks into multilateral fora. Nonetheless, I think the international community has managed to advance and adopt new treaties, new instruments, etc. So, I think on the one hand, you see there's a rising arms race, especially between the great powers, great power competition that is coming back, etc. So that in terms of disarmament might not look really positive. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if there would, in new ways be a soft law being, I don't know, arrangements between the great powers or smaller bilateral arrangements that bring disarmament farther. So there are a lot of new technologies out there, that should be or could be regulated. There's enough reason to do something. But how exactly that will turn out that that's kind of hard to say at this stage.
Ms Dominika de Beauffort: So, you mentioned new technologies. Are there any specific challenges regarding that on the horizon?
Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen: You know, final chapter, we've outlined a series of challenges, but I think there are three weapons or technologies that are particular concern. The first is cyber warfare. Now this is not new, but its use in conflict and outside conflict is growing. And I think that's, that's going to be a major challenge. The second one is artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons. This is going to be a very difficult obstacle to disarmament agreements. How do you outlaw or destroy artificial intelligence is not immediately obvious how that can happen. And then the third one is potentially quite a small item, but nonetheless a huge challenge, which is 3D printing, you can make weapons in your own back garden and you can make weapons that can kill how you deal with that and the disarmament agreement is very difficult. I guess the fourth issue which is not a new type of weapon, but Is the arena in which conflicts are going to be fought in the future? And that's outer space, it is clear that the next conflict could well be fought in outer space and not here on earth. And we're only beginning to find what the ramifications of that are for disarmament.
Ms Dominika de Beauffort: So, who is the book intended for? What's the audience?
Mr Tobias Vestner: Well, it's a guide. So, the question is, what the guide for whom is it for? We really thought this could be for people working practitioners working in the disarmament field on implementation of treaties of instruments, be it international organisations, NGOs, but also diplomats who work with these instruments and in the diplomatic field, also eventually, and negotiating a new agreement. So really a guide that is helpful for every day work, but also, of course, for scholars or young researchers to find quickly and accessible, relevant information.
Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen: And to make it as accessible as possible. We decided to adopt a thematic approach. It would have been possible to go through the five treaties list provisions explained them. But actually, we decided it'd be more helpful to break it down by subject. So we have a chapter on use, chapter on stockpiling, chapter on the transfer, on reporting, on verification, enforcement. And we think that the users, whether they be state or non-state will find the answers and we'll find the guidance that they need much more easily in that thematic approach.
Host: Well, that's all for today's podcast for the GCSP. Thanks for listening. And thank you to Alexander Verbeek for joining us along with Dr Stuart Casey- Maslen and Tobias Vestner. Join us again next week to hear all the latest insights on international peace and security. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Until then, bye for now.