Global Security Challenges: Existential Threats & Geopolitics

This major Cityforum project looks at what can be done to make life safer and more secure in the face of unprecedented security and environmental challenges. Focused less on analysis of the problems and more on hard-headed discussion of what can be done to deal with them. This opening webinar will take place on the eve of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Opinions vary on what COP26 can achieve, but it will at the very least draw attention to the pace of climate change and environmental degradation. It is increasingly clear that there can be no winners from climate change; and that there are no quick fixes. The world has failed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, and the consequences of climate change are combining with shifts in economic and geopolitical power to exacerbate tensions.

This opening session is developed and chaired by Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, Executive Chairman, Z/Yen Group, bringing together the Cityforum defence, security and resilience constituency and Professor Mainelli’s wider international financial, economic and technological networks.

We will be discussing the following themes:

  • The US and the geopolitics of climate and other threats
  • China as a geopolitical actor – how it will move on climate
  • The geopolitical lessons of the pandemic
  • The geopolitics of climate – questions for the UK


Hon Franklin D Kramer is a distinguished fellow and board director of the Atlantic Council. Mr. Kramer has served as a senior political appointee in two administrations, including as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. At the Department of Defense, Mr. Kramer was in charge of the formulation and implementation of international defense and political-military policy, with worldwide responsibilities including NATO and Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the non-profit world, Mr. Kramer has been a senior fellow at CNA; chairman of the board of the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC; a distinguished research fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University; and an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. Mr. Kramer’s areas of focus include defense, both conventional and hybrid; NATO and Russia; China, including managing competition, military power, economics and trade, and China-Taiwan-US relations; cyber including resilience and international cyber issues; innovation and national security; and irregular conflict and counterinsurgency.

Isabel Hilton is a London based writer and broadcaster. Isabel is a visiting professor at the Lau Institute at Kings College London, is founder and senior advisor to the China Dialogue Trust and is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Centre for Investigative Journalism. Isabel also serves on the board of E3G.

Debora MacKenzie was raised in Canada and trained as a biomedical researcher, but since 1982 she has been based in Europe and has worked as a science journalist, mostly for the British magazine New Scientist. Since the 1990s she has increasingly focused on stories about infectious disease, covering crises from mad cow disease to various kinds of flu, and from SARS to covid. She has also written about social complexity and risk, which we must understand to solve global governance problems like disease, climate, arms and migration. She is based in France near the border with Geneva, Switzerland.

Air Marshal Edward Stringer is currently advising the Secretary of State for Defence on the Office of Net Assessment and Challenge. Previously the Director General of Joint Force Development, and DG Defence Academy, within UK Strategic Command, responsible for the conceptual element of UK fighting power: concepts & doctrine, training & education, exercise & experimentation, lessons learned & innovation. Before that he was Assistant CDS (Operations) in the MOD in Whitehall, essentially the MOD’s operations director – from UK flood-relief to the Deterrent. Previously he had been ACAS, the RAF’s Assistant Chief, responsible for all policy interaction with MOD and for the RAF Board’s business. He arrived there from seeing the inside of the Pentagon as CDS’ Liaison Officer to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. A previous Commandant Air Warfare Centre and head of RAF Intelligence he has had operational commands in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. A one-time Jaguar pilot and weapons instructor (QWI) he first saw action in the Gulf War in ’91 and in the no-fly zone (NFZ) operations that followed.

Friday, 29 October 2021

15:00 - 16:00 BST


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  • Frank Kramer.jpg
    Hon Franklin D Kramer
    Distinguished Fellow & Board Member
    Atlantic Council
  • Isabel Hilton.jpg
    Isabel Hilton
    Senior Advisor
    The China Dialogue Trust
  • Debora MacKenzie.jpeg
    Debora MacKenzie
    New Scientist
  • edward_stringer.jpg
    Air Marshall Edward Stringer
    Director General
    Joint Force Development & Defence Academy
  • michael Mainelli.png
    Professor Michael Mainelli
    Executive Chairman
    Z/Yen Group

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