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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Reports > 2001 > Environmental Security Threat Report
Environmental Security Threat Report  
Released by the U.S. Department of State
October 2001

Section I: What Is Environmental Security?

Environmental security is an element of regional and national security. It encompasses the mitigation and prevention of energy threats, including threats to sources and supply lines, and environmental risks and related stresses that directly contribute to political and economic instability or conflict in foreign countries or regions of importance to the United States. Moreover, it addresses selected energy, environmental, and related national security concerns that pose a direct conflict with United States foreign policy. Although environmental security threats may not necessarily directly harm U.S. territory, they may still threaten national security because of potential harm to the territories of U.S. allies and other nations where the U.S. has strategic interests or due to indirect, adverse effects to the global economic system. Environmental security concerns include those from nuclear contamination, spent fuel, and waste; threats to energy resources; contamination, degradation or depletion of essential environmental resources; or environmental problems from failing infrastructure as may threaten U.S. security or undermine foreign regional stability.

In 1991, then-President Bush identified environmental security concerns in the National Security Strategy. The U.S. "National Security Strategy Report 2000" states, "Decisions today regarding the environment and natural resources can affect our security for generations. Environmental threats do not heed national borders; environmental perils overseas pose long-term dangers to U.S. security and well-being." It also emphasizes that "Responding aggressively to environmental threats remains a part of mainstream American foreign policy." For the past decade, concern about environmental threats has been a part of the National Security Strategy.

An Environmental Security Initiative (ESI) framework, formed in July 1996, has been established among the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency[1] and has been supported by the Department of State[2]. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of the ESI is clear in "recognizing the need to overcome the environmental legacy of the Cold War in order to promote prosperity and stability." The Scope of the MOU directs that the Parties "shall develop and conduct cooperative activities relating to the international aspects of environmental security, consistent with United States foreign policy, and their individual mission responsibilities, utilizing their legal authorities and facilities appropriate to specific tasks directed at achieving mutually agreed upon goals." Specific mention is made of a range of activities that may apply in reducing environmental security risks identified under the provisions of Public Law 106-255.

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[1]  July 3, 1996, "Memorandum of Understanding among the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense Concerning Cooperation in Environmental Security"

[2]  August 8, 1996, letter from Secretary of State to Secretaries of Energy and Defense and Administrator, EPA

 


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