Security Council: Climate-Related Security Risks

from UN Security Council
Published on 11 Jul 2018 View Original


11 JULY 2018



Note: A complete summary of today's Security Council meeting will be made available after its conclusion.


AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared: “It is clear that climate change is a real threat and is proceeding at a relentless pace.” The years 2015, 2016 and 2017 were the three warmest years on record, carbon dioxide levels continue to rise and resulting droughts, wildfires, heat waves and floods are being witnessed around the world. While no country will be spared from those effects, they disproportionately impact socially vulnerable and marginalized groups. “We must act together, with a joint vision and a commitment to multilateral cooperation,” she said, stressing that the impacts of climate change will go beyond the strictly environmental and “is inextricably linked to some of the most pressing challenges of our time”. Fragile countries are at risk of becoming stuck in a cycle of conflict and climate disaster; where resilience is eroded, communities may be displaced and exposed to exploitation. Citing the drastic shrinking of Lake Chad — by more than 90 per cent since the 1960s — she said the resulting environmental degradation, socioeconomic marginalization and insecurity affects some 45 million people.

Recalling that she had grown up in that region, she emphasized that she had seen the impact of climate change with her own eyes — “it is real”. Meanwhile, the Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria and neighbouring countries has left more than 10 million people displaced and resulted in massive destruction of infrastructure, health and educational facilities, commercial buildings, private houses and agricultural assets. The multidimensional nature of those crises underlined the complex relationship between climate change and conflict, she said, urging Council members to view climate change as “one issue in a web of factors that can lead to conflict”. It acts as a multiplier, applying additional stress on prevailing political, social and economic pressure points. Acting on climate change is urgent, and an integral part of building a culture of prevention and ensuring peace, she said. Outlining various ways the United Nations is currently tackling the risks posed by climate change — in particular in the Lake Chad Basin, West Africa, the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa — she said the Organization takes seriously its responsibilities and stands determined to fully mobilize against the phenomenon.

In that vein, she cited the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report in conjunction with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), which will report on recent developments including the climate-security nexus in the region. The recalibrated United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel is also taking a climate-oriented focus, prioritizing building resilience, improving the management of natural resources and decreasing malnutrition and food insecurity. At the international level, the United Nations helped to connect efforts to combat climate change and ensure that its related frameworks are linked up and complement one another. In September, the Secretary-General will convene a climate summit to galvanize greater climate ambition for the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Going forward, she said, the world also needed to push towards getting its greenhouse‑gas emissions under control — namely, well below the 2°C target — and to pursue the 1.5°C target as agreed in the Paris Agreement. Further work must place women at the heart of such efforts, as they remain disproportionately affected by climate change, and the United Nations should work to build institutional capacity and foster partnerships in impacted regions.

HASSAN AL-JANABI, Minister for Water Resources of Iraq, said the debate is a step forward regarding international responses to new challenges, as climate change has a negative impact on the pillars of peace. Rising temperatures exacerbate other threats and risks, increasing their complexity and intensity while making it impossible for countries to implement the Sustainable Development Goals amid growing numbers of displaced persons and migrants desperately looking to improve their lives. Major river basins in Iraq and the rest of the region are subject to the greatest ever threat, resulting from climate change, as well as competition for shared water resources.

He said the absence of implementable bilateral and multilateral agreements or regional frameworks for the equitable use of shared water is contributing to potential conflicts that could and should be avoided. The combined effect of climate change consequences, including a reported 25 per cent decline in rainfall and snowfall, and the operational modes of large dams that reduced the rate of inflows by 50 per cent in the Euphrates River since 1998 has triggered desertification, shrinking green cover and rising temperatures while reducing land productivity. This is true for the whole region, as climate change and water depletion are destroying soil fertility and causing food insecurity.

The international community must intervene to enhance resilience and stability in fragile areas, he said. In taking proactive and preventive actions, the global community can avoid humanitarian tragedies, typically most heavily felt by women, children and vulnerable groups. Many of the measures required may be legally binding on member States of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and compatible with commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals. Providing an example, he said excessive water use and the diversion of ancient rivers are among factors that led to the environmentally deteriorating Iraqi delta of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Efforts to revive marshlands at the confluence of the great rivers in Mesopotamia have returned life and the native population to the area after decades, leading the area to be enlisted in 2016 as a World Heritage Site. In the face of current water scarcity, the Site could only be saved if effective and cooperative regional approaches are implemented and Member States’ obligations to relevant conventions are met.

Turning to other threats, he said Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) has wreaked havoc on the population and the land and its resources. An approach to the phenomenon of terrorism requires a coordinated, international and regional approach to extinguish hotspots threating peace and security, with Goal 13 on climate change being beneficial to the region. Iraq fully supports diplomatic means to solve water scarcity issues, including through “water diplomacy” and similar initiatives intending to maintain the security of the planet with a view to creating an environment of trust and cooperation.

HINDOU IBRAHIM, International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, said that the Security Council must address climate change as a security risk. Climate change is humiliating millions of people by trapping the poorest in poverty. In the Sahel, 90 per cent of the economy relies on agriculture and pastoralism. A heat wave and drought has the potential to immediately hurt the economy and the people, she added. At the regional level, climate change contributes to reinforcing terrorist groups as they take advantage of poverty to recruit the youngest and most fragile. Climate change also creates insecurity at the international level. Take a man in the Sahel, for example, she said. He must take care of his family, feed them and pay for his children’s education. He has two choices: either he can join a terrorist group, that can pay him with money coming from illegal activities, or he can try to cross the Mediterranean Sea to find a job in Europe.

Even in the smallest nomadic community you can find a bottle of Coca Cola, but you cannot find electricity or a radio, she said. “Why give them things that are useless, but not things that can help them and keep them in peace,” she asked. Invest in the local development, she urged the international community, stressing also the need to directly invest in local people and their well-being. Development projects are often limited to big cities, ignoring the people living far from town. She urged the international community to give hope to the young in the Sahel. “They do not have a choice but you do have a choice,” she stressed, adding: “You must give them something beyond hope, because they do not deserve to just survive, they deserve a life.”


MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and Council President for July, spoke in her national capacity, noting that, during her recent visit to the Sahel region, she met with people dealing first hand with the everyday consequences that a changing climate was having on peace and security. Migrants and refugees are displaced by droughts and floods and traditional livelihoods, such as fishing and farming have evaporated, giving rise to tensions.

“The link between climate and security continues to be a priority for Sweden in this Council,” she said, calling on the organ to “catch up with the changing reality on the ground”. It has been seven years since the Council last debated climate and security, and it is far past time to further discuss how climate change interacts with the drivers of conflict. In that regard, she stressed that the Council first needs to better understand climate-related security risks themselves; it must develop improved tools and reporting on the issue; it should support the establishment of an institutional home for climate and security‑related issues within the United Nations system; and it must frame its response based on the efforts of countries on the front line, learning from their experiences and good practices.

EUGENE RHUGGENAATH, Prime Minister of Curaçao, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands, said that, where climate change threatens international security, the Council has a responsibility to act, pressing delegates to imagine if, 15 years ago, they could have foreseen the millions of people in the Lake Chad region needing relief from water stress, or those in Somalia displaced by severe drought. By responding in a timely manner to warning signs of climate-related security risks “we can adequately address root causes, prevent instability and conflict, and sustain peace”, he said. The Council must ensure action by the United Nations, both in New York and in the affected countries, notably through greater analytic capability, needed for risk assessments, conflict analysis and early warning. It also should encourage conflict- and climate-sensitive prevention and development efforts, as well as encourage the Secretary-General to include climate‑related risks in his reports to the Council, when appropriate. Institutionalized cooperation, properly coordinated across the Organization, was also vital.

YERZHAN ASHIKBAYEV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said climate change is becoming a central theme throughout the world community. It poses a risk as a “threat multiplier”. Calling for “climate diplomacy” to become a part of the United Nations overall conflict prevention efforts, he said it should also be treated as an underpinning concept in sustaining peace — not an end process, but one which ran parallel to prevention, resolution, recovery and rehabilitation. He also called for better climate-related security risk assessments and management strategies, stronger international cooperation, more joint projects to build the capacity of developing countries and investments in new diversified economies. Kazakhstan, for its part, has taken voluntary action to cut its use of fossil fuels by 2030 and replace it with renewable energy by 2050.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said the nexus between climate and security “is not an abstract risk” but one that already threatens lives and livelihoods around the world. The shocking estimate that 720 million people are at risk of being pushed into poverty by 2050 by climate change could also mean reversing the major gains of recent years. “We are working against ourselves if we don’t take action against this,” she stressed, noting that the United Kingdom is committed to championing efforts to build greater resilience to climate change in collaboration with a range of actors. It has also committed $7.7 billion in international climate finance, and is among the first countries to carry out a national climate risk assessment.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) underscored the vital importance of understanding the humanitarian crises and conflicts sparked in part by climate change, as well as the threats they pose to international peace and security. The Council must strengthen and harmonize its coordination with those United Nations bodies and agencies charged with addressing the impacts of climate change while fully respecting the mandates of those offices. Spotlighting Peru’s particular vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, he said the retreat of High Andes tropical glaciers has led to floods and other serious challenges. The Council must better shape its decisions, on a case-by-case basis, informed by a stronger understanding of such evolving, modern challenges as climate change. In that vein, he asked the Council to consider a correct assessment of climate risks — as well as the tools required to mitigate them — and to collaborate more closely with a wider range of partners.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the Council should consider phenomena such as natural disasters — as well as others that impacted populations and caused widespread displacement — in its work. “In response to these crises, we are all on the same side,” he said, noting that the United States currently applied innovative solutions to assist countries around the globe. In that regard, he described projects aimed at restoring access to water and electricity to Iraqi communities formerly under the control of ISIL/Da’esh, adding that it had contributed $265 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization in Iraq since 2015. Outlining a range of other joint projects — including alongside the Governments of the Netherlands and Sweden — he said the United States is also listening carefully to developments in the Lake Chad Basin region and recognized the special challenges faced by small island developing States.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that not a day goes by without someone falling victim to the adverse effects to climate change, whether it be drought, salinization or other threats. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the situation,” he said, urging the international community to tackle this existential challenge. “Each lost day heightens the magnitude of the threat,” he warned. The fact that Council Members are here discussing climate change in no way undermines the Paris Agreement and other multilateral frameworks on climate change. Each country must establish ambitious climate policies. This way, the international community will be positioned to keep the average global temperature in check. The international community must decide to cooperate to tackle the impacts of climate change. It is time to craft recommendations and measures that will be implemented by Governments worldwide to address the adverse impacts of climate change and protect and restore biodiversity.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said today’s Council meeting is disappointing and not because his country objects to collective efforts to address climate change. The meeting is another attempt to link the issue of environmental conservation to international peace and security. “We are creating an illusion that the Council will tackle climate issues and that there will be some kind of turning point,” he added, stressing that this is simply a “misguidance”. Climate change is a grave threat, however, the Council does not have the expertise or the mechanisms to effectively counter its effects. Climate change is not a universal challenge to be addressed as a matter of international peace and security. It should be addressed within national borders and with specialized approaches and solutions. Each United Nations agency and department must operate within its area of responsibility. Some say climate change is a threat multiplier, yet fail to acknowledge the adverse consequences of violent military operations and unilateral sanctions, as evident from experiences in Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria. No one today has mentioned the great damage caused by bombings or the subsequent health hazards caused to the people living there. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombing of Yugoslavia caused a spike in cancer among people living in the affected area. In Libya, the bombing of oil fields led to significant damage to the atmosphere, he said, also noting the adverse effects of the intervention in Syria and the fighting in Donetsk, Ukraine. The Russian Federation stood ready to and is already contributing to efforts to combat climate change. However, today’s discussion is a departure from practical action.

VERÓNICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia) said developing countries continue to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. Between 2000 and 2013, 211 million people were affected by extreme and catastrophic disasters. Some of the most industrial countries are shirking their responsibilities, she said, stressing the need to address the capitalist and excessive consumption models. Climate change represents an existential threat, loss of biodiversity and a loss of food security. The shortage of natural resources can further flame tensions. The adverse impact of climate change brings in its wake a range of direct and indirect consequences, violating many basic human rights. “We need to pursue a cooperative and coordinated approach,” she added, expressing concern that large military empires have destroyed entire civilizations to seize oil and other resources. The inequality between States is immoral and intolerable, she added.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) called on Council members to draw lessons from today’s meeting, especially regarding the need to “not be partial” on such critical issues as climate change. He called for concerted global action and described the 2015 adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as “multilateralism at its best”. In some circumstances, climate change could create conditions leading to conflict or exacerbate it, he said, spotlighting the high risk of cross-border conflicts or tensions around natural resources. However, it is important to note that climate-related environmental changes do not automatically result in conflict. In that regard, he called for enhanced efforts to address the root causes of such climate-induced problems as mass migration and displacement. Such global accords as the Paris Agreement are prerequisites in that regard, he said, noting that developed countries should fulfil their commitments under those agreements, assisting developing nations to meet their climate change mitigation needs.

MA ZHAOXU (China) said the international community should work together to address climate change by “actively rising up to existing challenges”. That means providing assistance to developing countries, including through technology transfer. Meanwhile, States must uphold the international principles of equality and justice, respect global climate-related agreements, reject “zero-sum mentalities” and promote win-win outcomes. The international community should implement the Paris Agreement while also adhering to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respecting differences in the circumstances of States. Calling on the global community to build a new concept of common, comprehensive security and sustainable development, he said China has long participated in global action on climate change, including in the context of South-South cooperation, and remains committed to assisting other countries going forward.

ILAHIRI ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire), noting that the impact of climate change could create fertile ground for the activities of extremist groups, he said the Lake Chad Basin and Sahel regions symbolize the environmental challenges being faced across the entire African continent. Against that backdrop, United Nations bodies should “go beyond usual divisions” in an effort to reverse the arc of climate change, he stressed, calling on the Council to effectivity analyse the root causes of climate-related conflicts and take action to address them. Describing a large and alarming depletion in Côte d’Ivoire’s forest cover, as well as instances of drought and water scarcity, he said such challenges could compound demographic shifts, displacement and food insecurity. This is especially true where Boko Haram and other criminal networks have taken root, he said, associating himself with the outcomes of a recent African Union Peace and Security Council public debate on the nexus between climate change and conflict. Those include calls for more support for African nations struggling with those issues, as well as more action at the subregional level, he said.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said international peace and security are threatened by many factors. Climate change exacerbates existing risks and has a direct impact at the core of human life. It shrinks the availability of resources, flaming conflict and tensions. Climate‑related issues should be mainstreamed in all reports submitted to the Council. This would help Member States tackle its adverse effects. He urged the need to improve the analysis and information available on climate change to help the United Nations make informed decisions.

MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) said the Security Council is instrumental to enhancing United Nations response towards conflicts, in particular in the context of conflict prevention in regions affected by adverse effects of climate change, such as the Lake Chad Basin, West Africa, the Sahel and Somalia. The Council should also underline the need for better climate-related security risk assessment and management strategies. “We cannot overestimate the critical role of reliable data about climate‑change‑related risks which is key to avoid conflicts, build resilience and prevent natural disasters,” he said. Regular discussions on climate change and security in the Council could complement other deliberations being carried out throughout the United Nations.

For information media. Not an official record.