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Assessment of environmental accidents from a security perspective

Periodic Report Summary - SECURENV (Assessment of environmental accidents from a security perspective)

SECURENV supports the development of knowledge base needed to ensure the security of citizens from future threats associated with possible deliberate attacks on the environment. The cornerstone in assessing the emerging threats is a foresight exercise well-suited to identify emerging threats to the environment from deliberate action. The long-term objective of SECURENV is to support the development of appropriate counter measures and mitigation strategies.

The first year of the project has been dedicated to a focused assessment of the background issues including emerging factors and to the development of the tools and methods to be used during the second year of the project. The work started with a review and assessment of past environmental accidents, catastrophes and examples of deliberate attacks on the environment.

For the structured assessment of these incidents a MySql database was created that hosts over 330 records with qualitative and quantitative parameters used to categorise the entries. While there is substantial anecdotal evidence of deliberate destruction throughout history, the actual amount of incidents related to environmental terrorism in the recent past is limited. However, organised crime appears to be an emerging phenomenon in this domain and the number of incidents is increasing, not least because of increasingly strict environmental regulations.

Several examples of environmental warfare have also been identified and also special attention has been given to incidents related to invasive species, as investigations by the project revealed the scale of the potential economic and environmental damage some of these species can cause. Parallel to the assessment work on previous incidents work on developing a suitable foresight methodology has also started.

The objective was to develop a systematic security foresight approach tailored to suit the specific needs of the objectives of Securenv. For this purpose, existing foresight approaches in the area of environment and security have been reviewed and synthesised and tailored to the approach of SECURENV. The resulting methodology is a combination of well-established methods that utilises both the expertise in the consortium (such as brainstorming, trend-spotting, mind-mapping and SWOT analyses) and expertise outside the consortium, in particular a Delphi survey addressing more than 600 experts in Europe and beyond, as well as scenario-building workshops involving 15-20 experts. Furthermore, backcasting would be used at the end of the scenario workshops and during the final workshop to arrive at relevant policy recommendations.

SECURENV has also developed a strong dissemination and end-user involvement strategy. In this case a particular challenge was to find a compromise between the need to publicly disseminate project results and to make sure that potentially sensitive results are distributed adequately. In order to meet this challenge a security-sensitive approach has been developed throughout the implementation of the project. Accordingly a strategy has been devised that divided end-users according to three main groups depending on their degree of engagement in the project and the type of restricted information they can receive.

All the results that were produced during the first year of the project will be used during the second year with the purpose of identifying novel and emerging threats on the environment by terrorists and possibly other organised groups. Scenario building techniques will be applied for systemic risk analysis that will address environmental security/environmental threat as an evolving concept. Based on the outcomes of the exercise key findings will be identified, which will serve as main input for policy measure developments. As a final step SECURENV will provide policy recommendations to European policy-makers and the intelligence community taking into account ethical, cultural and organisational challenges.