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12 July 2018: The UN Security Council convened a session to discuss the nexus between climate change and global conflicts and to deepen understanding of climate-related security risks. The session marked the Council’s first debate on climate change and security in seven years.


While speakers agreed that climate change and its impacts pose serious threats, they disagreed over the degree to which the Security Council has a responsibility to address climate change, with some arguing that the Council must address climate change as a security risk, and others warning against expanding the Council’s mandate or encroaching on the jurisdiction of other bodies. Some delegates proposed, inter alia, the appointment of a Special Representative on Climate and Security, and the establishment of an “institutional home” or hub for climate and security‑related issues within the UN system.

During the event, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed described climate change as “one of a web of factors that can lead to conflict.” She warned that countries most vulnerable to drought and crop failure are also those most vulnerable to conflict and fragility. Mohammed cited the UN Secretary-General’s forthcoming report, which highlights the climate-security nexus in West Africa and the Sahel, and said the UN’s climate‑related security risk assessments and management strategies have increased.

Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of Nauru, on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS), said a Special Representative on Climate and Security could facilitate regional and cross‑border cooperation on issues affected by climate change and support post-conflict situations when climate change is a risk factor.

A Special Representative on Climate and Security could facilitate regional and cross‑border cooperation on issues affected by climate change.

The Russian Federation expressed concern over efforts to link environmental conservation to international peace and security, warning that the Council lacks “the expertise or the mechanisms” to effectively counter climate change effects. He said climate change should be addressed within national borders and under the appropriate UN agencies and departments.

France said discussing climate change in the Security Council in no way undermines the Paris Agreement on climate change. Maldives, for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said the UNFCCC must remain the primary UN agency to respond to climate change.

Sudan, on behalf of the Arab Group, said, while the Council has an important role to play in addressing the climate-conflict nexus, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) are also important players. He said Arab governments are incorporating climate issues into their efforts to achieve the SDGs.

The UK highlighted her country’s US$7.7 billion international climate finance commitment.

Speakers also noted, inter alia, that: rising temperatures exacerbate other threats and risks, making implementation of the SDGs impossible; climate change impacts can create fertile ground for the activities of extremist groups and terrorists; and an estimated 720 million people are at risk of being pushed into poverty by 2050 by climate change. They underscored the outcomes of a recent African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) debate on the nexus between climate change and conflict.

Speakers also raised issues related to the Council: ensuring greater analytic capability for risk assessments, conflict analysis and early warning; encouraging conflict- and climate-sensitive prevention and development efforts; encouraging the UN Secretary-General to include climate‑related risks in his reports to the Council; strengthening and harmonizing coordination with UN bodies and agencies charged with addressing climate change; and convening regular discussions on climate change and security.