Climate change, combined with extensive environmental destruction caused by nearly a decade of conflict, threatens to exacerbate existing tensions in Yemen. The conflict has contributed to the decimation of critical resources, such as water and agricultural land, and led to the loss of livelihoods and forced displacement. All these factors have the potential to lead to new conflicts in Yemen, warns Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) in its new report, “Risking the Future: Climate Change, Environmental Destruction, and Conflict in Yemen.”
CIVIC spoke with communities and individuals across Yemen – primarily in Aden, Marib, and Taiz – to understand the impacts that climate change and the conflict have had on their livelihoods, access to resources, and inter- and intra-community relations. The research concluded that the combined effects of climate change and environmental degradation caused by warfare are threatening Yemenis’ rights to life, food, and water. When faced with a lack of natural resources and livelihoods, people in Yemen are often forced to move and tensions may erupt between the displaced and host communities, leading to local disputes and conflicts.
Both climate change and environmental degradation must be addressed immediately to promote stability and prevent the outbreak of further conflicts over access to resources and contribute to inter- and intra-communal tensions. The Yemeni government, security forces, and international community must cooperate in order to effectively confront the civilian harm threats posed by climate change. Warring parties must immediately cease tactics that are further degrading the environment and causing long-lasting harm to civilians—either directly or through their impact on land, water, and food. Communities must also be provided opportunities to self-advocate and contribute to solutions that take their specific needs into account. While efforts to end the current conflict and secure sustainable peace are the priority and a necessary first step to both ensuring civilian protection and ending the extensive harm caused by the war, the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction must not be ignored.