What's In Blue

Posted Mon 29 Jun 2015

Arria-Formula Meeting on Climate Change as a Threat Multiplier

Tomorrow morning (30 June), Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain) and Ambassador Ramlan Bin Ibrahim (Malaysia) will co-chair an Arria-formula meeting on the role of climate change as a threat multiplier for global security. Members are expected to discuss the interconnected threats to international peace and security posed by climate change and focus on ways these threats can be addressed.

Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson is expected to make remarks at the start of the meeting, and President Anote Tong of Kiribati will be the keynote speaker. This will be followed by presentations from panelists, including: Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad); Pelenise Alofa (Kiribati Climate Action Network); and Professor Michael Gerrard (Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University). After these presentations, Council members and other member states will make statements. Some ministers, who spoke at the High-Level Event on Climate Change today, might participate in the meeting as well.

A concept paper was circulated earlier this month to help guide the discussion. It quotes the 5th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which states that “climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks”. The note highlights the impact of climate change on many Small Island Developing States currently facing the threat of rising sea-levels. It notes how sustainable land management can mitigate the harmful impact of desertification, drought and land degradation—phenomena exacerbated by climate change that lead to forced migration flows and conflict over scare resources.

The note invites Council members to discuss how the UN system can address the security dimensions of climate change in a holistic and coordinated manner. Among other issues, the co-chairs invite Council members to discuss whether the Council is receiving appropriate contextual information about those situations where climate change drives conflict, challenges the implementation of Council mandates, or endangers peace processes.

Ahead of negotiations leading to the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) scheduled for December in Paris, the co-chairs hope to provide a focus on the security implications of climate change. Council members last took up climate change in February 2013 when the UK and Pakistan co-chaired an Arria-formula meeting on the matter.

The Council has tackled the issue of climate change in three open debates in April 2007, and in July and November 2011. It has adopted one outcome on climate change: on 20 July 2011, the Council adopted a presidential statement expressing concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security (S/PRST/2011/15). The statement noted the importance of including conflict analysis and contextual information on the possible security implications of climate change in the Secretary-General’s reports, when such issues are drivers of conflict, represent a challenge to the implementation of Council mandates or endanger the process of peace consolidation.

The first-ever debate on the security implications of climate change was held in April 2007 (S/PV.5663), under the UK presidency. At the time, a number of Council members and member states had reservations about holding the debate. This included a letter sent by Pakistan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China ahead of the first debate, criticising the “encroachment” by the Council on the roles and responsibilities of other principal organs of the UN (S/2007/211). However, since then Pakistan and now Malaysia, which are members of the G-77, have chosen to co-chair the two Arria-formula meetings on this issue. This signals a desire on their part—and probably several others in the G-77—for a frank discussion on the security implications of this issue, with the Arria-formula serving as the most appropriate format given its informal nature.

Among the permanent members, while the P3 have been supportive of the Council’s discussion of climate change, Russia and China have maintained that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is the appropriate venue within the UN system for deliberations on this issue.

The issue of climate change is also expected to feature in an open debate on the peace and security challenges facing small island developing states organised by New Zealand during its Council presidency in July.

Background on Arria-formula meetings can be found here.

Postscript (3 July):The Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, replaced the President of Kiribati as keynote speaker.

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