Stoltenberg takes on climate change and Turkey’s blockade of Sweden and Finland as NATO summit opens

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As world leaders arrive in Madrid for a high-stakes NATO summit, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that in addition to the crisis in Ukraine, the Alliance must focus on a more pervasive and no less urgent threat: climate change.

Opening the NATO Public Forum, which is co-hosted by the Atlantic Council, Stoltenberg pledged that the organization will slash emissions 45 percent by 2030, with a net-zero emissions target of 2050. NATO calls climate change “a defining challenge of our time” in its new Strategic Concept, Stoltenberg said, and the Alliance will also release its first assessment of the climate’s impact on security.

“From the High North to the Sahel, climate change is a crisis multiplier,” Stoltenberg said. “More extreme weather devastates communities and fuels tensions and conflicts.” That’s why, he said, “NATO is determined to set the gold standard on addressing the security implications of climate change.”

Addressing Turkey’s hold on Sweden and Finland

Stoltenberg said he will join today’s meeting of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson as they attempt to resolve their impasse. In recent weeks, Turkey has held up the bids of Sweden and Finland to join the Alliance. “I will not promise anything,” Stoltenberg said. “I hope we can make some progress, but let’s meet first, and I can update you afterwards.”

More broadly, Stoltenberg said he was sympathetic to Turkey’s concerns about the domestic security threat posed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), members of which Ankara has accused Helsinki and Stockholm of harboring.

“We all know that no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey,” Stoltenberg said. “Thousands of people have been killed. And PKK and other groups, they are responsible for these terrorist attacks, and PKK is a terrorist organization… To sit down, then, and discuss with Turkey how can we step up, do more together in fighting terrorism, which is a threat to our security, is an issue that is absolutely legitimate and important as part of the accession process and dialogue we’re now having with Finland and Sweden.”

Daniel Malloy is the deputy managing editor at the Atlantic Council.

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Image: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks on the day of the NATO summit at the NATO Public Forum co-hosted by the Atlantic Council in Madrid, Spain on June 28, 2022. Photo via REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura.