What's In Blue

Posted Thu 14 Dec 2017

Climate Change: Arria-formula Meeting

On Friday (15 December), the Security Council will hold an Arria-formula meeting on the theme: “Preparing for security implications of rising temperatures”. The meeting has been co-organised by a wide array of member states, including Council members France, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom; the Netherlands and Peru, which enter the Council in 2018; and Germany, the Maldives and Morocco. Briefers are expected to include: Halbe Zijlstra, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, who may discuss The Hague Declaration on Planetary Security which outlines measures to address climate-related security challenges; and Caitlin Werrel, the co-founder and President of the Center for Climate and Security, a Washington D.C.-based policy institute that focuses on climate-related security threats. Security Council members and co-organisers are invited to speak, although the meeting is open to all member states.

A concept note has been circulated in preparation for the meeting which asserts that “Droughts, floods or water scarcity can generate humanitarian crises, unrest and conflict”, and emphasises that “…as the effects of climate change become more severe, they become a multiplier of various crises”. It further states that “climate-induced security threats have become more pressing” since the Council first considered the issue a decade ago. Several issues are raised in the concept note to help guide the discussion. These include:

  • how to promote and reinforce the 2011 presidential statement (S/PRST/2011/15) on climate change within the UN system and more broadly (the statement requested the Secretary-General to ensure that his reporting to the Council included contextual information on possible security implications of climate change);
  • how the Security Council can more consistently and effectively assess new security risks caused by climate change;
  • how to better prepare for the destabilising effects of climate change (e.g, sea level rise, floods, and droughts) and mitigate their impact in generating food insecurity, migration, economic stress, and other factors that can trigger or exacerbate conflict; and
  • how to prevent conflict caused by conflict change.

In spite of the growing evidence of the linkages between climate change and security, the Security Council has been ambivalent in its approach to climate change. Several members have supported Council engagement on climate change over the years. However, others have questioned the compatibility of the issue with the Council’s peace and security mandate and view it as essentially a sustainable development issue. They maintain that the focus on climate change encroaches on the work of other UN organs such as the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.

Nonetheless, there has been increased attention to the security impact of climate change in the Council in recent years. This has been addressed in meetings on related topics, such as the open debate initiated by Senegal on “water, peace and security” (S/PV.7818) in November 2016, and the open debate spearheaded by New Zealand on “peace and security challenges facing small island developing states” (S/PV.7499) in July 2015. On 26 September 2016, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, briefed the Council on challenges in the Sahel, focusing on the impact of climate change and desertification on peace and security in the region. And shortly after its visiting mission to the Lake Chad Basin in March, the Council adopted resolution 2349 in which it recognised the negative impact of climate change on stability in that region.

Arria-formula meetings, such as the one scheduled for tomorrow, have been a useful vehicle for Council members to discuss various climate-related threats to international peace and security. Since these are not formal meetings of the Council, the divisions over discussing the issue are dampened, allowing members to hear the views of a diverse and informed group of stakeholders in an informal setting. On 15 February 2013, Pakistan and the UK co-hosted an Arria-formula meeting on the security dimensions of climate change that included the participation of civil society as well as member states from outside the Council. Similarly, Spain and Malaysia jointly hosted an Arria-formula meeting on 30 June 2015 on the role of climate change as a threat multiplier for global security. Most recently, an Arria-formula meeting organised by Ukraine on “Security Implications of Climate Change: Sea Level Rise”, with cooperation from Germany in preparing the session, was held on 10 April 2017.

Background on Arria-formula meetings can be found here.

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