SC: Climate and Security- joint statement of the Group of Friends on Climate and Security

Joint statement of the Group of Friends on Climate and Security submitted to the open debate on the 'Maintenance of international peace and security: Climate and Security', 23 September 2021.

Mr. President, Members of the Security Council, Secretary-General,

Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my distinct honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of Friends on Climate and Security: a broad and diverse group of now almost 60 countries and the EU from all regions of the world. We are delighted that our membership continues to grow as more countries are show interest in joining our ranks – evidence that the wider UN membership takes a very keen interest in the issue before the Security Council today. The common concern of the members of the Group of Friends is the threat posed by climate change to peace and security, to stability and prosperity, to the effective enjoyment of human rights, and in some cases possibly even to the existence of states.

Let me thank Ireland as President of the Council for convening this very important open debate on one of the most pressing challenges of today. It could not be more timely!

As Secretary-General Guterres rightly pointed out: Climate change is one of the defining security issues of our time. After decades of inaction and delay, many dangerous impacts are now unavoidable. In Small Island Developing States and other climate-vulnerable regions of the world, like the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, or the Caribbean, many of these effects have already arrived: More intense and more frequent extreme weather events, sea level rise, droughts and ocean acidification and salinization, are, around the world, already contributing to greater food and water insecurity, economic volatility, societal stress, human displacement and migration. This is especially evident in vulnerable countries and regions, particularly those that are often least responsible for climate change, but no country is immune: developed countries have suffered unprecedented floods, heat waves, drought, desertification and fires in recent months, and will continue to do so.

The title page of The Economist in July this year read “No safe place”, referring to a world shaped by the devastating impact of climate change. We have a narrow window of opportunity to prevent the worst impacts but we must significantly strengthen our efforts to address the root causes. It is critical we all raise our ambition to limit global warming to 1.5°C, scale up adaptation action and climate finance and make sure that COP26 in Glasgow is the success it needs to be to avoid a future where there is truly “no safe place”. The IPCC has recently made it crystal clear: if the international community fails to make rapid and immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, there is a greater than 90% chance that global warming will surpass 1.5 °C within the next two decades, and further changes in temperature will only increase the likelihood of extreme events, such as heavy rainfall, droughts and wildfires.

Limiting global warming is crucial but it is only part of the challenge before us. The climate is already changing and we can no longer completely prevent all of the negative effects of climate change from occurring, but we can, and indeed, we must, do more to prevent the unavoidable effects of climate change from contributing to the destabilization of countries and entire regions, which risks leading to new armed conflicts or worsening existing conflicts.  

Mr President,

A laissez faire approach will not be enough to address the security implications of climate change. Building climate-resilient systems that support peace and stability urgently require a much more concerted international effort. The Group of Friends on Climate and Security was formed to support such efforts.

The entire UN system must address this challenge, in all relevant fora and within all relevant mandates. The UN is already doing important work on climate and security. The Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) is one laudable example of interagency cooperation, strengthening the capacity of the UN system to analyse and address the adverse impacts of climate change on peace and security. We encourage all member states to continue to support and engage with the CSM. We welcome the Secretary-General’s call for an increased focus on the effects climate change has on peace and security in his recent report Our Common Agenda.

The Security Council has a critical role to play, given its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the agenda item framing today’s debate. Far too much time has passed since the last, and to date only, Security Council product explicitly on climate and security – the Presidential Statement 2011/15 more than ten years ago. Nevertheless, we welcome the acceleration of tangible progress we see in the Council’s work on this important issue. We acknowledge and welcome that the Council has recognised the need to integrate the effects of climate change in peacekeeping and special political mission mandates in West Africa and the Sahel, Somalia, Mali, Sudan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Cyprus, and Iraq, and these are all steps in the right direction, but more needs to be done to ensure a more a structured and systematic approach to addressing the impacts of climate change on peace and security.

The Informal Expert Group of Members of the Security Council has grown into a useful forum for improving our understanding of complex country situations thus better informing its work and decision.  

The Group of Friends has been calling on this Council to create the necessary tools to enable the UN to do its part in preventing and resolving conflict that are, at least in part, driven by the effects of climate change – as many of today’s conflicts are and more of tomorrow’s will be. 

Once more we are calling for concrete, tangible actions to be considered:

Regular reporting by the Secretary-General on the security implications of climate change.

The appointment of a Special Representative for Climate and Security who could improve the United Nations ability to address climate-related security risks.

Climate-related early warning systems, conflict prevention, mediation, and peacebuilding.

Adequate consideration of climate risks in mandates of all relevant peacekeeping and special political missions.

Enhanced capacity through mandated training for all relevant UN personnel to analyse and address the implications of climate change on peace and security and humanitarian crises.

Strengthened cooperation with civil society, and other regional and national actors, including national weather services and regional climate centres, on climate-related security risks to ensure the UN’s work can benefit from profound local expertise. 

These proposals have been put forward repeatedly in the Security Council. Last year, a group of Security Council members translated them into a draft resolution. A thematic resolution would provide the framework needed to translate these proposals into action. The Group of Friends would very much welcome the consideration of such an ambitious resolution by the Council. 

Mr. President,

The need for action by the UN in general and by the Security Council in particular has only become more urgent since the Council last discussed this issue in February. The evidence is clear. Climate change is a threat to international peace and security. No nation can face it alone. We must act now, and we must act together, we must act as one – throughout the entire UN system. This includes that the Security Council must live up to its primary responsibility under the Charter to address threats to international peace and security – and in this context to address threats that climate change poses and will increasingly pose.

Thank you.