On 13 June 2023 the United Nations Security Council debated issues surrounding climate change, peace and security.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said most United Nations peace operations have faced a deteriorating security and political environment over the past several years. Alongside other cross-border challenges, environmental degradation and extreme weather events — amplified by climate change — have increasingly challenged missions’ ability to carry out their mandates.
The representative of China said the Council should consider its mandate and country-specific situations while assessing climate change security implications. Recalling the reversal in some developed countries’ energy policies since 2022, he said their carbon emissions have increased, not decreased. If climate change is deemed a potential threat, a negative, regressive behaviour in emissions reduction fulfilment — including unilateral withdrawal from the Paris Agreement — should also constitute a threat to international peace and security.
Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of Colombia and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, underscored that climate change and security cannot be treated as separate issues. In the real world, the consequences of climate change and conflict very clearly converge. Climate change exacerbates threats to human security and war damages nature and the environment in numerous ways, from the destruction of dams to attacks on oil pipelines and agricultural land that sustains rural communities.
Catherine Stewart, Ambassador for Climate Change of Canada, also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, called for a collective action to assess the security implications of climate change and its effect on fragile and conflict-affected States; peacebuilding activities; and women, youth and Indigenous Persons. The Council should also integrate climate risks into peacekeeping mandates and practices. The Australia-Pacific Climate Partnership supports Australian aid investments across the Pacific to be climate and disaster risk informed, and in partnership with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the Women’s Resilience to Disasters Program supports women’s leadership in climate and disaster reduction efforts.
Salma Kadry, Climate, Peace and Security Expert at the Consortium on International Agricultural Research, said that if the international community does not meet the magnitude of the climate crisis, a warming climate will put her generation and future ones in the face of multiplying dangers and insecurities. She urged the international community to look again at whether its peace and security tools are effectively supporting people’s innovations and building their resilience, particularly for women and youth. She also urged the Council to expand the spectrum of research that informs its decisions.
The representative of Germany, speaking for the Group of Friends on Climate and Security, called for the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative for climate, peace and security. The entire United Nations system must address this complex challenge and the Climate Security Mechanism is a prime example of interagency cooperation. It strengthens the Organization’s capacity to analyse and address the adverse impacts of climate change on peace and security. The Council would also greatly benefit from considering the findings emanating from Peacebuilding Commission meetings on specific regions, such as the Pacific Islands, the Sahel and Central Asia.
Hermann Immongault, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, said that 17 out of 20 countries most affected by climate change are in Africa. Access to water, along with drought, desertification and recurrent flooding constraints, is causing the economic and social fabric of the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region to fray. He called for incorporating the climate-security nexus in geopolitical strategies; boosting cooperation between subregional and regional organizations and the United Nations; and sharing best practices at the national, regional and international level. “This is the question of survival of the affected populations and the issue that determines peace and security for people throughout the world,” he added.
For a full report on the event see https://press.un.org/en/2023/sc15318.doc.htm
See below for comments before the conference to the media by Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of Gabon, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland; on Climate Change, Peace and Security.
This article was first published by United Nations Association Coventry Branch.