Climate and Security
Expected Council Action
Gabon is planning to hold a debate on “Climate and security in Africa” under the “Threats to international peace and security” agenda item as one of the signature events of its Council presidency. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed; Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, former Chair of the Africa Group of Negotiators on Climate Change; and Patrick Youssef, ICRC Regional Director for Africa, are the anticipated briefers.
No formal outcome is anticipated.
Key Recent Developments
On 13 December 2021, the Security Council voted on a draft resolution on the security implications of climate change. The draft, which was initiated by Ireland and Niger and co-sponsored by 113 member states, had the support of 12 Council members. However, it was vetoed by Russia. India also voted against the draft, while China abstained.
China, India and Russia had expressed strong reservations about the draft from the outset of the negotiations. After the co-penholder placed it under silence procedure on 29 November 2021, they broke the silence and disseminated nearly identical letters to Council members that objected to the draft resolution, arguing that there is “no clear scientific background for equating climate change with security concerns”.
Had it been adopted, it would have been the first standalone Council resolution on this issue. The draft emphasised the need for “a comprehensive, whole of UN approach to address climate change and its effects”. It requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Council within two years a report “on the security implications of the adverse effects of climate change in relevant country or region-specific contexts on the Council’s agenda as well as recommendations on how climate-related security risks can be addressed”. It also encouraged relevant UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions to deploy dedicated capacity on climate security.
In lieu of the draft resolution, Russia circulated a draft presidential statement on 9 December 2021 on the security threats in the Sahel region, including climate change, as an alternative to the resolution. Several Council members were unwilling to engage on the draft, which never gained traction.
Since the veto in 2021, the Council’s focus on climate change and security at the thematic level has markedly decreased. This month’s debate will be the first formal meeting on the issue in 2022. Climate change has been discussed, however, in the informal Arria-formula format this year. On 9 March, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) convened a ministerial-level Arria-formula meeting on climate finance (that is, the local, national or transnational financing of initiatives aimed at addressing climate change and its effects) as a means to build and sustain peace in conflict, post-conflict and crisis situations. The UAE’s special envoy for climate change and minister of industry and advanced technology, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chaired the meeting.
At the country-specific level, the Council has continued to incorporate climate change language in resolutions authorising or renewing peace operations in 2022. This has been the case with respect to peace operations in Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, and Somalia.
Climate change was also referenced in a 31 August presidential statement initiated by China that recognised the need to enhance capacity-building support to African countries. In that statement, the Council called for the international community and the UN to support Africa in its efforts to mitigate and adapt to the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation.
Incorporating climate change references in other outcomes has been difficult. In this regard, Council members tried to adopt presidential statements this year on the work of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), which failed because of disagreements over whether to include language on climate change and security. India, in particular, resisted such references in both cases.
There has been notable activity in the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on Climate and Security this year. Established in 2020, this entity is designed to help Council members develop a more systematic approach to climate-related security risks. The current co-chairs of the IEG are Kenya and Norway. On 4 February, the IEG convened a briefing on evidence and research from different regions on the linkages between climate change and security. IEG meetings were also held on 5 May and 2 June to discuss climate-related security challenges in Iraq and Mali, respectively. UN Deputy Special Representative for Iraq Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano briefed at the 5 May meeting, while Alain Noudéhou, the UN Deputy Special Representative for Mali, briefed at the 2 June meeting. The IEG meetings have been held virtually this year, which has facilitated briefings by UN staff in the field.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council is whether and how to integrate climate change and security concerns more systematically in its work. Another key issue is how to strengthen synergies among the UN system, regional and sub-regional organisations, national governments, and grass-roots actors in managing and mitigating climate change-related security risks.
A possible option for the Council is to invite a civil society representative to the debate to brief on the adverse effects of climate change from a regional perspective. Gabon could also consider producing a summary of the debate that captures its main themes and circulating it as a UN document.
Over the longer term, Council members could consider a visiting mission to various sub-regions of Africa that focuses on the threats posed by climate change to peace and security and generates thinking about how the Council can best address these threats.
Although all current members of the Council recognise that climate change poses an existential threat to human civilisation, strong divisions persist over whether the Council is an appropriate forum to address climate change. Eleven members—Albania, France, Gabon, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, the UAE, the UK, and the US—support a more systematic integration of climate-related security risks into the Council’s work, with varying degrees of commitment. Several of these members tend to emphasise 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, in addition to having devastating effects on human security.
Gabon, which is organising this month’s debate, is a strong proponent of Council engagement on climate change and security. From 29 August to 2 September, it hosted “Africa Climate Week 2022” in Libreville, which included the participation of over 2,300 stakeholders and focused on the following issues: resilience to climate risks, transition to a low-emission economy, and partnership to address climate-related challenges.
Brazil, India and Russia are sceptical about Council engagement on this issue, especially at the thematic level. They believe that climate change is fundamentally a sustainable development issue that is more appropriately addressed by other parts of the UN system, including the General Assembly and ECOSOC. Although China has had reservations about the Council’s role on this issue, it incorporated climate change language in the 31 August presidential statement it initiated, working closely with the African members of the Council (Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya) on the text.
Several developing countries in the Security Council, including those that support a role for this organ on climate and security matters, underscore the need for developed countries to contribute more to climate financing for the developing world.
UN DOCUMENTS ON CLIMATE AND SECURITY
|Security Council Resolution|
|31 August 2022S/PRST/2022/6||This was the presidential statement initiated by China on peace and security in Africa.|
|13 December 2021S/2021/990||This was the draft resolution in blue on climate and security. The draft resolution failed to be adopted because of a veto from Russia. It received 12 votes in favour, two against (India and Russia) and one abstention (China). The draft resolution was co-sponsored by 113 member states.|