Research Report

Posted 30 December 2022
Download Publication: PDF

The UN Security Council and Climate Change: Tracking the Agenda after the 2021 Veto

To read the full report, please download the PDF here.

This report seeks to address how the Council has engaged with the climate change, peace and security dossier following the December 2021 veto of a draft resolution on this issue. It examines the thematic meetings that the Council has convened on climate change, peace and security, its efforts to integrate climate change language into country- and region-specific outcomes, and the work of the Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security. The report also provides an update on the activities of two entities—the Group of Friends on Climate and Security and the UN Climate-Security Mechanism—whose efforts complement and support the Council’s work on this file. The main section of the report ends with an analysis of potential Council dynamics on climate change, peace and security in 2023. A brief conclusion offers some overarching observations on the Council’s involvement on this issue.

The report makes the following observations:

  • 2022 was marked by ongoing divisions in the Council’s work on climate change, peace and security. While most of the Council supported the organ’s work on this issue, there was strong resistance from a minority of members. As in past years, the divisions continued to be between members who emphasise that climate change is a threat to international peace and security warranting the Council’s consistent attention, and members who underscore that climate change is fundamentally a sustainable development issue and claim that the Council is encroaching on the work of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • These divisions notwithstanding, proponents of Council engagement on climate change, peace and security can point to some encouraging developments in 2022. Climate change references by and large remained intact in peace operation mandates, albeit with variations in the extent to which language has been added or deleted in specific cases. As well, the Council’s work on climate change, peace and security has been accompanied by complementary activities with the UN system, including the ongoing expansion of the Group of Friends on Climate and Security and the increasing scope of the Climate Security Mechanism’s (CSM) work.
  • A heightened focus on climate adaptation and resilience—and the importance of supporting such activities through climate financing and peacebuilding—has coloured Council discussions in 2022. While several Council members have emphasised this perspective, it has been especially prevalent in the statements of the African members. Ongoing concerns that climate change is a “risk multiplier” that can exacerbate insecurity have also continued to be a feature of the Council’s deliberations.
  • Strong resistance to climate change language from a small number of members has blocked several presidential statements from being adopted in 2022.
  • The Council environment may be more favourable for proponents of climate change, peace and security in 2023. India, which had significant reservations, finishes its term at the end of 2022, while many of the incoming members (Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland) have voiced strong support for Council involvement. Differences of view will nonetheless remain.