New Research Brief Offers a Roadmap for Security Council Members to Engage on Climate-Driven Security Risks

2 June 2023

Our new Research Brief Climate Change in the Security Council: Obstacles, Opportunities, and Options identifies entry points for engaging on environmental and climate security issues at the UN Security Council.

Authored by our Head of Research and Policy Studies Dr Erica Harper and Dr Adam Day, Head of the UN University Centre for Policy Research Geneva Office, this new paper provides policymakers in the environmental, human rights and security sectors and UN member states with a clear and realistic roadmap for the 2023–2024 period.

‘Placing climate change on the Council’s agenda is a complex and risky process, where several recent attempts to reach consensus have failed. These difficulties should, however, be set against a growing evidence based of the causal links between environmental change and security risks – with climate change acting as a threat multiplier – and the recent recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment’ explains Dr Harper.

Strategies to Overcome Challenges to Policy Uptake

The 13-page brief outlines a series of interim strategies – from pushing for an expanded Peacebuilding Commission mandate to leveraging the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment – to advance a climate priority in the Council.

‘Our approach and recommendations take into account existing challenges and geopolitical hurdles at the Council: we are very much aware that any approach to climate security will need to account for the risk that attempting ambitious action today could have the unintended consequences of setting issues backward’ explains Dr Day.

To contextualize its recommendations, the paper also provides an overview of the main causal pathways between climate change and insecurity, as well as a short history of how the Council has addressed climate change in the past, including a list of all its relevant climate-security events.

Beyond the Security Council

The paper will also be of interest to Geneva-based diplomats working at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), UN Special Procedures mandate holders and HRC-mandated investigative bodies, including fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry.

‘We need to better understand how issues of climate security are becoming increasingly relevant to the work of UN Special Procedures and investigative bodies, but also to reflect on the potential role that the HRC could play as a generator of information on environmental rights abuse and how this might feed conflict risk assessments and mitigation activities’ underlines Dr Harper.

Part of our Research on the Relationship between Conflict, Security and the Human Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment

This brief is the first output of our new research aimed at understanding the relationship between conflict, security and the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

‘Protection against climate change, environmental good governance and the promotion of the right to a healthy environment should thus be seen both as a tool of conflict prevention and key to conflict resolution and non-recidivism. To date, these causal relationships have not been sufficiently integrated into multilateral policy debates and decision-making processes. In response, this project will develop guidance to inform security, human rights and environmental debates on the linkages between environmental rights and conflict, and how their better management could be a tool in conflict prevention, resilience and early warning’ explains Dr Harper.


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