Climate & Peace
Climate and security at the United Nations
The impacts of climate change undermine livelihoods and critical aspects of stability such as access to food and water.
These impacts can exacerbate drivers of conflict including displacement and resource competition. The global climate crisis is, therefore, a key risk to international peace and stability.
While the United Nations (UN) system needs to act as a whole to reduce these risks, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.
The UNSC can help reduce climate-security risks by ensuring that climate change and related security challenges are reflected across all UN activities that address conflict — from prevention to restoring peace.
By providing political guidance through its mandates, the UNSC can support Member States and institutions around the globe in better addressing climate-security risks.
Building resilience on the ground
The question is no longer whether humanity will experience negative climate impacts, but how and when.
We must pursue the goals of ensuring global peace and prosperity through this lens: societies need resilience.
Resilience requires a holistic approach to adaptation and peacebuilding. 70 percent of the countries most vulnerable to climate change are also among the most fragile.
There is a clear need to address climate and conflict risks simultaneously.
Afghanistan: Double vulnerability
The people of Afghanistan have endured nearly constant armed conflict for the past 40 years. Increasingly, their towering glaciers, vast rangelands, and life-giving rivers are under threat as well. The country has already warmed by 1.8 degrees Celsius since 1950, far more than the global average.
Climate change undermines the prospects for peace in Afghanistan in many ways. More frequent droughts could boost the drug economy by encouraging farmers to plant poppy, a drought-resistant plant. Scarcer water and arable land could increase competition among groups who rely on livestock herding and rain-fed farming, fuelling conflict along community and ethnic lines. International tensions over water resources could undermine efforts to stabilise the country.
Afghanistan already struggles to provide services to the entire population, and it is ill equipped to deal with the effects of natural disasters, forced displacement and bad harvests. However, the Afghan government has begun to integrate climate throughout its policy-making.
By continuing this approach and improving land and water management in particular, Afghanistan can prepare itself for the climate impacts to come. Moreover, jointly addressing environmental issues might help build confidence in the Afghan peace process. The international community can and should support this. The UN Security Council should provide political leadership by including appropriate guidance into its mandates for UN assistance missions.
For more insights, consult the climate-fragility risk brief on Afghanistan provided by the Climate Security Expert Network.
A farmer sits idly by as Afghan counter narcotics police destroy poppy crops.
Pacific islands: Small states in great danger
The ultimate security threat to any nation is its disappearance — and some Pacific islands could literally be swallowed up by the ocean as sea levels rise. Yet climate change also presents many other security threats that have received comparatively little attention.
Even moderate sea level rise will cause displacement due to salinisation. Increases in temperature and rainfall could trigger outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as malaria. Food security is under threat, too. Tuna catches are expected to decline by 20 percent under a high emissions scenario. Declining revenues from fishing are a major economic problem in a region highly dependent on maritime resources.
These climate impacts are likely to increase tensions in the region. The disappearance of low-lying land risks spurring disputes over maritime boundaries and fishing rights, both among island nations and between them and outside powers. In addition, forced migration is likely to undermine traditional land tenure systems.
Small island states need an efficient UN support system. Above all, the international community must secure the very survival of Pacific islands by achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. It should also help the region to boost adaptation and resilience to climatic changes already underway. For example, the international community can contribute to regional data collection; bolster monitoring and early warning systems, and support vulnerability assessments and displacement planning.
No man is an island; no island should stand alone.
For more insights, consult the climate-fragility risk brief on the Pacific Islands Region provided by the Climate Security Expert Network.
We reaffirm that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.
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