Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Climate and Security - Security Council Open VTC

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23-Feb-2021 03:10:18
Climate change ‘biggest threat modern humans have ever faced’, world renowned naturalist tells Security Council, calls for greater global cooperation.

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Climate change is a “crisis multiplier” that has profound implications for international peace and stability, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council today, amid calls for deep partnerships within and beyond the United Nations system to blunt its acute effects on food security, natural resources and migration patterns fuelling tensions across countries and regions.

Throughout the morning, the Council’s high-level open debate on climate and security heard from a range of influential voices, including naturalist David Attenborough, who called climate change “the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced”. In video remarks telecast at the outset, he warned that concentrations of carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere have not been equalled for millions of years.

“If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security,” he said: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature and ocean food chains. The poorest — those with the least security — are certain to suffer. “Our duty right now is surely to do all we can to help those in the most immediate danger.”

While the world will never return to the stable climate that gave birth to civilization, he said that, if Governments attending the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November recognize climate change as a global security threat, “we may yet act proportionately — and in time”.

Climate change can only be dealt with by unparalleled levels of global cooperation, he said. It will compel countries to question economic models, invent new industries and recognize the moral responsibility that wealthy nations have to the rest of the world, placing a value on nature that “goes far beyond money”. He challenged the international community to finally create a stable, healthy world where resources are equally shared and where — for the first time in history — people “come to know what it feels like to be secure”.

Mr. Guterres echoed those calls, describing the climate emergency as “the defining issue of our time”. Noting that the last decade was the hottest in human history, he said wildfires, cyclones, floods and droughts are now the new normal. “These shocks not only damage the environment on which we depend, they also weaken our political, economic and social systems,” he said.

Indeed, where climate change dries up rivers, reduces harvests, destroys critical infrastructure and displaces communities, it exacerbates the risks of conflict, he said. A study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that 8 of the 10 countries hosting the largest multilateral peace operations in 2018 were in areas highly exposed to climate change.

The impact is greatest where fragility and conflict have weakened coping mechanisms, he said, where people depend on natural capital for their livelihoods and where women — who bear the greatest burden of the climate emergency — do not enjoy equal rights. He highlighted examples in Afghanistan, where reduced harvests have pushed people into poverty, leaving them susceptible to recruitment by armed groups, and across West Africa and the Sahel, where changes in grazing patterns have fostered conflict between pastoralists and farmers. In some Pacific small island nations, entire communities have been forced to relocate.

“The forced movement of larger numbers of people around the world will clearly increase the potential for conflict and insecurity,” he observed. He called for greater efforts to address climate‑related security risks, starting with a focus on prevention, and creating a global coalition committed to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century. The United Nations is asking companies, cities and financial institutions to prepare credible decarbonization plans.

In addition, immediate actions are needed to protect countries from increasingly frequent and severe climate effects. He urged donors and multilateral and national development banks to increase the share of adaptation and resilience finance to at least 50 per cent of their climate finance support. Developed countries, too, must keep their pledge to channel $100 billion annually to the global South. “They have already missed the deadline of 2020,” he acknowledged.

Above all, he called for embracing a concept of security that places people at its centre, stressing that COVID-19 has laid bare the devastation that non‑traditional security threats can cause on a global scale. In all such efforts, it will be essential to build on the strengths of the Security Council, Peacebuilding Commission, international financial institutions, regional organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia and others.

Issuing a call to action, Nisreen Elsaim, Chair of the Youth Organization on Climate Change and the United Nations Youth Advisory Group, said young people around the globe are watching the Security Council as it grapples with climate change. Each of the organ’s four meetings on the issue — in 2007, 2011, 2018 and 2019 — have referenced serious climate-related security risks in Somalia, Darfur, West Africa and the Sahel, Mali and the Lake Chad Basin. “Science has forecasted many more countries will join this list if we did not take the right measures now, and if we did not start adaptation specially in Africa,” she said, adding that, in her country, “we are living in continuous insecurity due to many factors that put Sudan on the top of the list when it comes to climate vulnerability”.

She recalled that, in a 2018 Council resolution on Sudan, members recognized the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural hazards on the situation in Darfur, focusing specifically on drought, desertification, land degradation and food insecurity. “Human survival, in a situation of resources degradation, hunger, poverty and uncontrolled climate migration, will make conflict an inevitable result,” she said. Moreover, climate-related emergencies cause major disruptions in access to health, life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, and result in loss of livelihoods and drive displacement and migration. They also increase the risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices and force young people to flee in search of a decent life.

Welcoming the Council’s recent deployment of a new special political mission, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS), she said it has a historic opportunity to speak to the root causes of the conflict. Climate change and youth participation is mentioned twice in the Mission’s mandate, and climate change challenges are included in the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement. Emphasizing that young people must be part of the solution, she declared: “We are the present, we have the future, let’s not repeat previous generations’ lapse.”

In the ensuing dialogue, Heads of State and Government, along with ministers and other senior officials described national actions to attenuate the negative impact of climate change and offered their views on the related security risks. Some pressed the Council to broaden its thinking about non-traditional security threats. Several — including leaders from Kenya and Niger — stressed that the link between climate and conflict could not be more evident, while others explored the ability of Governments to meet people’s basic needs, and still others cast doubt on the assertion that the relationship between climate and conflict is causal, instead pointing to political and economic factors that are known to drive tensions.

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