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Canada would be ‘perfect home’ for NATO centre on climate security, Dutch PM says

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The Netherlands threw its support behind a new NATO centre of excellence to study the security threats posed by climate change Friday, during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official visit to Holland.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a joint media conference with Trudeau Friday that like many around the world, “NATO is also focusing more attention on the climate issue.”

“And that’s the reason why we are working on the NATO centre of excellence on climate and security, ” he said, standing next to Trudeau.

“Canada has offered to host the centre. In the Netherlands’ view, Canada would be the perfect home for this platform, given a strong profile and commitment to this important issue.”

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Trudeau first announced the intention to ask allies to support the development of a NATO climate security centre of excellence during the NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels in June.

The hope is to have the design and negotiation process take place this year and next, and start establishing the centre itself in 2023. Canada said the centre would help NATO members better understand, adapt to and mitigate against the security implications of climate change.

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Earlier this month, the United States released climate security strategies from several departments, including Defence, Homeland Security and Commerce, to look at ways to deal with how climate disasters could force mass migrations of people, exacerbating conflict and starting new wars.

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The Pentagon and British defence departments have been developing climate security plans for more than a decade.

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The new Canadian centre would become a strategic addition to the more than two dozen such NATO think-tanks. The centres offer the military alliance expertise and research capability to develop doctrines and approaches to a vast array of global security challenges.

They are headquartered mainly in European countries, and devoted to the study of civil-military operations, cyber defence, military medicine, energy security, naval mine warfare, anti-terrorism, cold weather operations, among others.

In recent years, NATO’s cyber centre for excellence headquartered in Estonia has focused on fighting internet-based warfare that has included countering threats posed by Russian hackers aiming to disrupt Western democracies through disinformation campaigns.

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Trudeau is in the Netherlands for an official visit, opening his day giving a speech to and taking questions from members of the House of Representatives and Senate in the historic Ridderzaal.

Trudeau identified disinformation campaigns and extremism as serious threat to global economies and democracy in his speech earlier Friday to Dutch parliamentarians.

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Paying homage to the friendship between Canada and the Netherlands that rose out of the Second World War, Trudeau said the very values and security Allied forces fought to defend are in peril.

“It’s not just conspiracy theorists and marginalized, angry people online,” he said. “It’s state actors, too, using disinformation, propaganda, and cyberwarfare to harm our economies, our democracies, and undermine people’s faith in the principles that hold us together.”

Trudeau did not name any particular state actor, but more than one question from Dutch parliamentarians centred on the rising influence of China, a fact Trudeau said “poses tremendous challenges around the world to democracies and our trading systems.”

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And yet, Trudeau said China is too big a player to withdraw engagement entirely.

“We cannot pretend that China isn’t there, just cross our arms and ignore it,” he said. “It is too important a player in our economies right now.”

Trudeau added that countries like Canada and the Netherlands have to engage China constructively on trade, on climate change, while challenging it on human rights, the situation in Hong Kong, the Uyghurs, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Trudeau also pushed the Dutch parliament to ratify the comprehensive free trade deal between Canada and the European Union, known as CETA. While the deal is now largely in force, member EU legislatures are also expected to ratify.

Trudeau said CETA has opened markets while protecting the environment and labour rights, as he offered a sharp rebuke to opponents of the deal: “If you can’t make a free trade deal with Canada, maybe you’re not in favour of free trade at all.”

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The prime minister was also challenged by a member of the Dutch Green party for setting targets to curb greenhouse emissions that aren’t as stringent as what is being promised in Europe.

Trudeau said there has been a lot of focus on setting targets and not enough on actually implementing policies to meet them.

Later Friday he will visit the Canadian War Cemetery with Princess Margriet of the Netherlands.

Trudeau and Rutte were expected to discuss trade, climate change and global security, including a joint effort to prevent further tragedies involving civilian airliners flying through conflict zones.

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This weekend Trudeau will be in Italy for the G20 leaders’ summit and then he will fly to Scotland for the first two days of the United Nations COP26 climate negotiations before he returns to Canada.

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