Climate and Security
Expected Council Action
Germany plans to convene a ministerial-level open debate on climate and security in late July. A Council product is a potential outcome of the meeting. Given that the extraordinary and provisional measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may still be in place, an open videoconference (VTC) may be held instead of an open debate, with statements by non-Council members submitted in writing.
Key Recent Developments
The Security Council last held a thematic discussion on climate-security matters in January 2019 under the Dominican Republic’s presidency. That was an open debate on the theme “Addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security”. Briefings were provided by Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator; Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the World Meteorological Organization; and Lindsay Getschel, a research assistant in the Stimson Center’s Environmental Security Program. DiCarlo described efforts to enhance the analytical capacities of the UN system to assess climate-security risks. Steiner described UNDP projects being undertaken to help countries and areas vulnerable to climate change—such as the Maldives and countries in the Caribbean—adapt to climate-related risks. Kabat emphasised the many destabilising impacts of climate change, observing that it heightens the chance of conflict over water, which can lead to increased displacement and migration. Getschel appealed to the Council to adopt a resolution formally recognising climate change as a threat to international peace and security.
On 22 April, an Arria-formula meeting was held via VTC on “Climate and security risks: the latest data”. The meeting was co-organised by Belgium, the Dominican Republic, France, Estonia, Germany, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the UK, and Viet Nam. The briefers were Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo; Robert Malley, President and CEO, International Crisis Group; and Dan Smith, Director, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. DiCarlo described how the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) has integrated climate change into its mediation efforts as appropriate; in this respect, she referred to the UN’s mediation between farmers and pastoralists contesting resources in West Africa. Malley emphasised that the “impact of climate change on conflict is context-specific, which is why…marrying granular, field based political analysis…with climate expertise could produce the most effective conflict prevention outcomes”. Smith underscored the need for the UN to “promote climate risk awareness [internally]…develop a systemic approach to managing climate-related security risk…and embed climate issues in conflict prevention and peacebuilding”.
The ten Council members that organised the 22 April Arria-formula meeting held a virtual meeting with Secretary-General António Guterres on 22 June to discuss climate change and security. During the meeting, they emphasised the importance of improving the information the Council receives on climate-related security risks and noted that the UN system needed to enhance its readiness to respond to such risks.
In recent years, the Security Council has begun to integrate climate-security language into its formal products. Since 2017, the need for risk assessments and management strategies with regard to the destabilising effects of climate change and other ecological factors has been incorporated into Council outcomes on the Lake Chad region, Mali, Somalia, Central Africa, West Africa and the Sahel, and Sudan as well as in the thematic resolution that the Council adopted on “Silencing the Guns in Africa” in February 2019. In renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) in December 2019, the Council also recognised the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes, and other factors on the stability of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and welcomed the “leadership of the DRC in the development of national strategies to address these issues”. During the current year alone, climate-security language has been integrated into a presidential statement on the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel, the reauthorisation of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the resolution establishing the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).
Women, Peace and Security Developments
In his 9 October 2019 report on women, peace and security, the Secretary-General recognised that climate change will worsen complex emergencies, affecting women and girls disproportionately. He said that there is “an urgent need for better analysis and concrete, immediate actions to address the linkages between climate change and conflict from a gender perspective.” In response to this call, on 8 June, the UN Environment Programme, UN Women, the UNDP, and the DPPA published a report on “Gender, Climate & Security: Sustaining inclusive peace on the frontlines of climate change”. The report is based upon the premise that the results of climate change aggravate existing conditions that threaten peace and security. It goes on to argue that the impact of and response to these threats are partially determined by gender norms. Drawing from case studies in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the report gives recommendations with regard to three interlinked goals: climate action, gender equality, and peace and security. In order to achieve these goals, an understanding of the gender dimension of climate-related security risks is key, according to the report. One of the recommendations of the report is ensuring “that gender considerations are appropriately reflected in debates and deliberations on emerging policy on climate-related security risks”. The report further recommends the integration of climate considerations into the National Action Plans (NAPs) for the implementation of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security; it points out that at the moment, only 17 out of 80 NAPs refer directly to climate change. During the 25 January 2019 open debate under the presidency of the Dominican Republic on “Addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security”, only five UN member states out of 75 included in their statements a recognition of a gender perspective as relevant in the response to climate-related security risks.
Key Issues and Options
Key issues that may be raised by Council members and other member states during the debate include:
- the need to enhance understanding about the security implications of climate change;
- the importance of developing the analytical capacities of the UN system to assess climate change-related security threats, provide the Security Council with useful information about these threats, and support states and regional organisations in developing and implementing actionable plans to address them;
- the importance of developing synergies among states, regional and sub-regional organisations, and the UN system in managing and mitigating climate change-related security risks; and
- the need to determine how the Security Council, the peace operations it mandates, and UN Country Teams can best collaborate to address such risks.
One option that is being considered is to pursue an outcome on climate change and security that could focus on enhancing the information that the Secretariat provides to the Council on climate-security risks; strengthening the capacity of UN entities in the field to analyse and respond to these risks; and developing synergies between the Security Council and other UN entities (for example, the Secretariat, the DPPA and the Peacebuilding Commission) to develop risk management strategies for the security impacts of climate change.
In addition to briefings from UN officials, the Council could also consider requesting a briefing from a climate-security expert from a think tank, university, or NGO who can describe linkages between climate change and peace and security and present options for the role the Council could play in tackling these issues.
Climate change and security is a controversial issue in the Council. Most Council members currently champion the organ’s engagement on this issue. They have emphasised that factors such as drought, water scarcity, food insecurity, and desertification that are caused or exacerbated by climate change increase the risk of violent conflict. They believe that there should be a more systemic integration of climate-related security risks into the Council’s work.
However, Russia, China and the US have strong reservations about the Council’s engagement on this issue. Russia and China have expressed concern that Council involvement encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN entities, which they maintain are better equipped to deal with this issue. Russia also believes that this is essentially a sustainable development matter, with only tangential links to international peace and security. The US has resisted efforts to incorporate climate-security language in Council outcomes on Iraq, Haiti and other matters.
UN DOCUMENTS ON CLIMATE AND SECURITY
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 June 2020S/RES/2525||This resolution established UNITAMS and renewed UNAMID until 31 December 2020.|
|29 May 2020S/RES/2520||This resolution renewed the AMISOM authorisation until 28 February 2021.|
|19 December 2019S/RES/2502||The Council extended MONUSCO’s mandate until 20 December 2020.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|11 February 2020S/PRST/2020/2||This presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel, included emphasising the need for free
and fair, credible, timely and peaceful elections during 2020 in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Mali and Togo.
|20 July 2011S/PRST/2011/15||This was a presidential statement on climate change.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|25 January 2019S/PV.8451||This was a Council open debate focused on addressing the impact of climate-related disasters on international peace and security.|