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UN Security Council Discusses Climate Change As Global Pressures Grow

The Security Council in session at the UN headquarters in New York

The UN Security Council is hosting an Arria meeting on ‘Preparing for the security implications of rising temperatures’ on 15 December at the UN headquarters in New York. As climate-induced security threats have become more pressing, the highest body of global governance is slowly taking up the issue again.

The meeting aims to facilitate a practical discussion about the tools the UN requires to address the peace and security implications of climate change. In particular, the participants will discuss the merits of the growing call to create an institutional home for climate-related security risks in the UN system. The meeting is co-hosted by Italy, Sweden, Morocco, the UK, the Netherlands, Peru, Japan, France, the Maldives and Germany.

The meeting marks a break from tradition. The UN Security Council has largely discussed climate change as an awareness-raising exercise. However, this year the Council passed the first resolution recognising climate-related security risks and the need to respond to them (resolution on ‘Peace and Security in Africa’). Yet, there is currently no process for creating climate risk assessment and risk management strategies in the UN system.  Further, there is a growing frustration that the UN and the Security Council are not addressing the needs of the most challenged countries, despite the ‘Prevention Agenda’ set out by Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the start of his term. Guterres is under increasing pressure to respond to the growing call for action and address climate security issues more prominently.

Amidst political struggles and worsening climate realities, countries are expressing a growing interest in creating an institutional home for the management of climate-related security risks. This meeting will gauge support for this proposal and could be decisive for its future. The proposal to create an institutional home for climate-related security risks was first proposed by Sweden and builds upon the long-held demand from Small Island States and other climate-vulnerable countries for a high-level representative on climate security. The German and Dutch governments have also been active in supporting the call for an institutional home, and support for this approach is growing across the world.

A few days earlier, at the Planetary Security Conference 2017, the leading lights of the climate and security community launched an unprecedented declaration to catalyse action. The Hague Declaration sets out six recommendations for action on climate change and security – one of which calls for an institutional home on climate-security in the UN system. The Declaration has been signed by more than 70 leading experts on climate security, including 7 Ministers, from over 24 countries. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs will present the Declaration and its six recommendations to the Security Council at today’s debate.

Find more information on the Arria meeting here.