A new briefing by the International Crisis Group identifies the need to pass a resolution in the UN Security Council recognising Climate Security as one of the top 10 challenges facing the UN in 2021. The briefing notes the often-divided nature of the security council and political minefield that the secretary-general must navigate when seeking to address the short and long term problems the world faces. However, noting the IPCC’s recent report that the 1.5 degrees centigrade warming limit set by the Paris agreement is likely to be exceeded by 2040, it is essential that the world prepares itself for the security consequences of accelerated climate change.
Although the Security Council has already discussed climate security on multiple occasions, and it is included in the mandate of several peacekeeping missions the UN’s mechanisms for tracking and analysis of the issue are still limited. A Council resolution could direct the UN system to devote more resources to the issue. Another positive effect would be inspiring other bodies to carry out work on climate security, much like the concurrent spurring of work on women, peace and security inspired by Resolution 1325.
However, the effort to pass a resolution will not be without problems. In 2020, Germany pushed for a Climate Security resolution. This was rejected by Russia, China and the U.S., and the Trump administration threatened to veto the resolution. The new Biden administration has promised to be more proactive in addressing climate change and now forms a part of the twelve-member Council Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security. Furthermore, China and India, a newly elected Security Council 2021-2022 member which fears climate securitisation, have hinted at compromise on the issue. Diplomats hope that Russia will abstain rather than veto a popular resolution.
The case for doing this in 2021 is clear, given that Brazil, led by the climate sceptic Bolsonaro administration, will join the council in 2022. Some proposals, like the appointment of a climate security envoy, may need to be abandoned in favour of compromise, but a broad agreement would signal that the Security Council is poised to address the growing challenge of Climate Security.
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