Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Integrating Climate-Related Security Risk into Conflict-Prevention Strategies
Speakers Disagree on Text, Appropriate Forum to Tackle Climate Change Issues
The Security Council today, in a contentious meeting, rejected a draft resolution that would have integrated climate‑related security risk as a central component of United Nations conflict‑prevention strategies aiming to help counter the risk of conflict relapse.
In a recorded vote of 12 in favour to 2 against (India, Russian Federation), with 1 abstention (China), the Council — acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations — rejected the draft owing to the negative vote by a permanent member of the Council.
Co‑sponsored by Niger (Council President for December) and Ireland, the draft would have requested the Secretary‑General to integrate climate-related security risk as a central component into comprehensive conflict-prevention strategies of the United Nations, to contribute to the reduction of the risk of conflict relapse due to adverse effects of climate change.
The vote followed an open debate of the Council on 9 December in which nearly 60 speakers warned that people and countries most vulnerable to climate change also are most vulnerable to terrorist recruitment and violence. (For background, please see Press Release 14728.)
Members of the Council, speaking before and after the vote, expressed pronounced disagreement on the content of the resolution, the consensus process and the very notion that it should appear on that organ’s agenda.
Ireland’s delegate, arguing that the Council was an appropriate forum for the resolution, said that although some Member States suggested this would establish a process separate from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in fact, it would enable the Council to address climate change with the tools already within its mandate. Refuting that there is no scientific data on the question, she underscored that the evidence is compelling. “Time is not on our side in any aspect of the climate issue,” she emphasized.
The representative of Niger, Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, underlining that the force of veto can block the text but cannot hide the reality. Emphasizing that his delegation is not claiming other forums are inadequate, he asked why the Council could not adopt a resolution on climate change, given its adoption of a resolution on the COVID‑19 pandemic. “Those who come after us should learn a lesson,” he added.
However, India’s representative — while stressing his country is “second to none” in addressing climate action and climate justice — stated that the Council is not the place to discuss either issue. Today’s attempt to link climate with security obfuscates a lack of progress on critical issues under the UNFCC process. The text would constitute a step backward from collective resolve to combat climate change. Therefore, he had no option but to vote against it.
The Russian Federation’s representative expressed regret that Niger’s presidency of the Council has been darkened by discord. While the draft’s sponsors spoke of 113 supporting Member States, they had not mentioned the 80 Member States that did not. Highlighting the right of veto, he said the international community is deeply divided on climate, as was clear at the twenty‑sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow. The draft resolution represented a step back in trying to fight climate change, and only the negative vote stopped it, the best indication that the veto is a key piece of insurance for Council work.
Mexico’s delegate, however, disagreed with what he described as the inappropriately called “right to veto”, which could paralyse the Council, discouraging dialogue and debate. The draft resolution recognized the central nature of UNFCCC and focused on comprehensive analyses entrusted to the Council. He expressed regret that it was not adopted, despite the support of 12 Council Members and the co‑sponsorship of 113 Member States.
Also speaking were the representatives of Norway, United Kingdom, Kenya, Viet Nam, United States, China, Tunisia and Estonia.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 11:27 a.m.
GERALDINE BRYNE NASON (Ireland), also speaking for Niger, said it has taken years of leadership and engagement to reach this point, adding that the Council was the appropriate forum for addressing climate change. Although some Member States said this would establish a process separate from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), she argued it would enable the Council to address climate change with the tools it already has within its mandate. It is long overdue for the principal organ of the United Nations responsible for international security to address the issue of climate change across its conflict resolution mediation work. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) affirmed that the climate crisis is an issue not only of today but tomorrow, recognizing the need for coherent action that must include work of this important body. It is inconceivable that the Council would turn away. Noting over 113 Member States joined sponsorship of the draft — a clear majority of countries — she added that Niger itself is a country tragically impacted by the issue. Refuting that there is no scientific data on the question, she stated it is there and it is compelling, citing the support of the African Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Union and other organizations and blocs. “Time is not on our side in any aspect of the climate issue,” she stated.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) emphasized that the draft resolution is unacceptable. Its co‑sponsors did not want to listen to requests for clarifications or any arguments. Creating a new area for the Council’s work which makes a direct connection between climate change and international security may bring a whole range of consequences. This is an attempt to divert attention from genuine deep‑rooted reasons for conflict in some countries on the agenda. The instability of specific countries or regions is due to complex reasons and the draft does not aim to help them but takes a general approach to climate change. Noting attempts to create a whole range of mandates are the result of a dubious view on peace and security, he said the approach would be a ticking time bomb. Giving political workers the mandate to reach conclusions would cause problems, he said, adding the fight against climate change is also a question of sustainable development. Such debates should be carried out in the appropriate forum, the UNFCCC; it is wrong to shove in this resolution when there are other measures truly necessary for fighting climate change. Pointing out that the President of the Council realized there was no consensus on the draft, he called on him not to sow discord in the Council on such an important topic. In that regard, he called attention to an alternative text proposed by his delegation.
Acting in a recorded vote of 12 in favour to 2 against (India, Russian Federation), with 1 abstention (China), the Security Council — under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations — rejected the draft due to the negative vote by a permanent member of the Council.
Ms. BYRNE NASON (Ireland), voicing regret over the use of veto to block what could have been a “ground‑breaking” resolution, noted that her delegation had conducted months of consultations and had received strong support from a majority of Member States. Today could have been a point of inflection. Adopting the resolution would have been “a modest step” towards addressing security risks posed by climate change. Instead of asking the right questions, the Council looked away from the reality. Veto represents anachronism. The text garnered 131 co‑sponsors. The Council’s rejection of it is a stark reminder of the need to reform the organ. She believed that the weight of evidence would bring consensus to the Council, giving it an opportunity to show the world it cared, she said. The United Nations must understand security implications of climate change and the Council should factor in security risks into its work.
ABDOU ABARRY (Niger), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, underscoring that the force of veto can block the text but cannot hide the reality. In the 9 December open debate, while some speakers criticized the short-sightedness of those delegations pushing for this resolution, he stressed: “We are clear‑ and far‑sighted.” Niger lives in the reality in which climate change enhances security risks. Underscoring that his delegation is not claiming that other forums are not enough, he asked why the organ cannot adopt a resolution on climate change, given its adoption of a resolution on the COVID-19 pandemic. “Those who come after us should learn a lesson,” he added.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), stressing that his country was “second to none” when it comes to climate action and climate justice, stated that the Council is not the place to discuss either issue. In fact, the attempt to do so appears to be motivated by a desire to evade responsibility in the appropriate forum. Detailing his Government’s climate‑action vision and efforts towards this end, he said that affordable access to climate finance and technologies has become critical. Developed countries must provide climate finance of $1 trillion, and climate finance must be tracked with the same diligence as climate mitigation. Underscoring that developed countries have fallen well short of their promises, he pointed out that today’s attempt to link climate with security seeks to obfuscate a lack of progress on critical issues under the UNFCCC process. The text would constitute a step backward from collective resolve to combat climate change and would hand responsibility to a body that neither works through consensus nor is reflective of the interests of developing countries. Therefore, he said that India had no option but to vote against the text.
MONA JUUL (Norway), expressing regret that today’s thematic resolution was not adopted, underscored that, because the adverse effects of climate change matter to conflict and peace, they should matter to the Council. This is not a problem for the future — climate change affects everyone, here and now. Noting that 10 years have passed since the Council first acknowledged climate change as an emerging risk factor for global peace and security, she said that United Nations missions are operating in increasingly complex environments. The Council must account for factors like climate change for the sake of preparedness, resilience and civilian protection. The climate and security agenda is, at its heart, preventative, and it aims to climate‑proof conflict prevention — not to take on the task of other United Nations organs. As such, she emphasized that today’s thematic resolution would have helped guide the Council’s work.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed regret that Niger’s presidency of the Council has been darkened by discord. The Russian Federation, India and China do not share the approach imposed by Western States. While the draft’s sponsors spoke of 113 supporting Member States, he observed they had not mentioned the 80 Member States that did not. Addressing the right of veto, he said the international community is deeply divided on climate, as was clear in Glasgow at COP26. The draft resolution represented a step back in trying to fight climate change and only the negative vote stopped it — the best indication that the veto is a key piece of insurance for Council work. It is even clearer that domination of the Council by Western countries, attempting to evade responsibility for their actions, is an anachronism. Therefore, he called for a strengthened presence of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Stating the international community had shown concern over the Sahel region in its open debate on 9 December, he pointed to the alternate proposed draft addressing that region, including financing and multilateral assistance.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) expressed regret over the outcome of the vote. For over 75 years, through thousands of resolutions, the Council has sought to address the greatest challenges to international peace and security. Climate change is such a challenge. Citing the concerns of small island developing States, witnessing sea levels rising, and mountain States, with melting glaciers, she pointed out that COP26 proved countries can work together to take decisive action. Given that well over 113 Member States, including developing countries, had co‑sponsored the draft, she stressed actions must follow words. The Council can play its part, with more frequent reporting on the link between climate and security being a good start. Her delegation will continue to support further action across the United Nations including within the Council.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) expressed regret over the division that led to the use of veto and urged the Council to continue its engagement, now on an alternative resolution put forward by the Russian Federation. Although his delegation had supported today’s resolution, it had not co-sponsored it because of the profound risks of passing the text without broad-based agreement. Recalling that consensus is the primary mode of decision making on issues of climate change, he cited difficulties in negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow. Consensus meant that African States had to “swallow a bitter pill”, as some commitments by developed countries were reserved. In Glasgow, that reversal was supported by some Council members that were the strongest supporters of today’s resolution. This leaves a question about what has changed for them since Glasgow, and what they want to achieve in the Council beyond UNFCCC. Future work must focus on the countries affected by and the countries causing climate change. He expressed hope that countries disproportionately affected by climate change will be represented by permanent or veto‑wielding members.
HAI ANH PHAM (Viet Nam) said that it could have been a major step in taking action for issues of great concern to humanity. Viet Nam is among the countries affected by climate change. He concurred that UNFCCC is the primary forum to discuss climate change but that does not mean the exclusion of the Council’s role. All members should continue to discuss it in order to reach consensus, as the organ has demonstrated solidarity on many occasions.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that, by vetoing today’s resolution, the Russian Federation stopped the Council from taking a small, necessary and practical step to combat the impacts of climate change. Rejecting the notion that Council action in this area undermines either the Paris Agreement on climate change or the UNFCCC, she stressed that the Council can and should complement, support and reinforce collective work under those instruments. Only the Council can ensure that the security impacts of climate change are integrated into the critical work of peacekeeping, peacebuilding and humanitarian response. Today’s resolution would have constituted a modest — but meaningful — step forward on these goals. Expressing dismay that the Russian Federation blocked the resolution, she said that veto let the world down. There is no way to justify such action as the clear majority of Member States endorsed Council action on this issue — evidenced by the more than 113 States co‑sponsoring the resolution. “Russia may have blocked this one resolution”, she added, “but the global movement cannot be stopped”.
ZHANG JUN (China), noting that his delegation abstained, said that, while climate change has the potential to impact peace and security, the nexus between the two is complex. Compared with the “microconcept” of climate change, factors such as environmental degradation, food shortages and unfair distribution of resources are most likely to lead to tension and conflict. China will not avoid serious discussion in this area, he said, but stressed the need to avoid securitization of climate issues. The most important step to deal with climate change is to significantly reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions until net-zero emission is achieved. Common but differentiated responsibility is also an unshakeable cornerstone of the global response. In that regard, developed countries have a responsibility to help build capacity and resilience in developing countries. Today’s resolution did not address any of these important issues. Instead, it could allow developed countries new excuses to shirk their historical responsibilities and commitments. Recalling that the Council has already dealt with climate issues under a number of country‑specific issues on its agenda, he suggested that the organ continue on this path and address climate issues from the perspective of peace and security through targeted responses.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said the draft resolution had been reasonable, with co‑sponsors heeding the vast array of concerns addressed during consultations. As it had not been voted in, he took the opportunity to state that Mexico has long disagreed with the inappropriately called “right to veto”, which could paralyse the Council, discouraging dialogue and debate. The draft recognized the central nature of UNFCCC and focused on comprehensive analyses entrusted to the Council. He expressed regret that it was not adopted, despite the support of 12 Council Members and the co-sponsorship of 113 Member States.
ADEL BEN-LAGHA (Tunisia), also voicing regret that the draft had not been adopted, said it was unfortunate the Council could not speak in one voice on such an internationally comprehensive issue pertaining to security. His delegation voted in favour, as climate change affects peace and security in many regions including the Sahel. He noted that, during its tenure on the Council, his delegation has sought to include unconventional issues, including climate change and the COVID‑19 pandemic on the Council agenda, as that organ should not overlook such threats. Expressing hope for continued work within and without the Group of Governmental Experts, he affirmed the need for consensus, division of labour and complementarity with other United Nations organs.
ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia) said his delegation voted in favour as climate change threatens, among other things, existence of some States, including small island developing States. The Council has a clear role in addressing the issue. The outcome just witnessed is disappointing. The resolution would have ensured a more systematic approach to preventing conflict caused by climate risks. Estonia’s term in the Council will expire this month, he said but climate change should remain on the Council’s agenda. He expressed hope that current and incoming members will carry it over.