With the climate crisis generating an increasing threat to global peace and security, the Security Council must ramp up its efforts to protect the Organisation’s peace operations around the world and lessen the risk of conflicts emanating from rising sea levels, droughts, floods and other climate-related events, briefers, ministers and delegates told the 15-nation organ.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said most United Nations peace operations have faced a deteriorating security and political environment over the past several years. Alongside other cross-border challenges, environmental degradation and extreme weather events — amplified by climate change — have increasingly challenged missions’ ability to carry out their mandates.

Across the board, the Department of Peacebuilding and Political Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations are striving to integrate climate considerations into their work, he continued. Since 2018, the Climate Security Mechanism — a joint initiative between those two Departments, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — has provided multidisciplinary support to Member States, regional organisations and United Nations entities to better understand the linkages between climate, peace and security.

He urged host Governments, development actors and the private sector to provide their support. “Together we can build a future where our efforts in conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacebuilding and peacekeeping reinforce and are complemented by our commitment to addressing the climate crisis,” he stressed.

Catherine Stewart, Ambassador for Climate Change of Canada, also speaking for Australia and New Zealand, called for a collective action to assess the security implications of climate change and its effect on fragile and conflict-affected States; peacebuilding activities; and women, youth and Indigenous Persons.The Council should also integrate climate risks into peacekeeping mandates and practices.

The Australia-Pacific Climate Partnership supports Australian aid investments across the Pacific to be climate and disaster risk informed, and in partnership with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the Women’s Resilience to Disasters Programme supports women’s leadership in climate and disaster reduction efforts.

The representative of Germany, speaking for the Group of Friends on Climate and Security, called for the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative for climate, peace and security.

The entire United Nations system must address this complex challenge and the Climate Security Mechanism is a prime example of interagency cooperation. It strengthens the Organisation’s capacity to analyse and address the adverse impacts of climate change on peace and security. The Council would also greatly benefit from considering the findings emanating from Peacebuilding Commission meetings on specific regions, such as the Pacific Islands, the Sahel and Central Asia.

Yet other delegates voiced their concerned that if the Council tackles climate change, the role of other forums specifically targeted for climate issues, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on climate change, could be diminished.

The representative of China said the Council should consider its mandate and country-specific situations while assessing climate change security implications. Recalling the reversal in some developed countries’ energy policies since 2022, he said their carbon emissions have increased, not decreased. If climate change is deemed a potential threat, a negative, regressive behaviour in emissions reduction fulfilment — including unilateral withdrawal from the Paris Agreement — should also constitute a threat to international peace and security.

The representative of India, pointing to the little scientific evidence around the impact of climate change on peace and security, said that any attribution of a conflict’s cause on climate change is an oversimplification. Choosing to place this issue in non-mandated forums — especially those where all members are not on equal footing — will undermine the larger cause of securing climate justice. The Framework Convention is an appropriate forum for discussion, she emphasized.

Nonetheless, the Marshall Islands’ delegate, speaking for the Pacific small island developing States, once again stressed that, while the Pacific Island countries are the smallest contributors to global climate change, their way of life faces extinction.

“We represent the canary in the coal mine for what is to come if concrete action is not taken by transitioning from fossil fuels towards renewable energy and scaling up climate finance in the realms of adaptation and mitigation,” she said.

To that, Ireland’s representative underscored that a concerted, multilateral response is urgently needed. Beyond doing more to better understand climate-related security risks, the Council has a duty to use all the tools at its disposal to address climate where it is exacerbating instability and undermining peace and security. Anything less would be a betrayal of its responsibility, he cautioned, adding: “The question of whether the Security Council should factor the security risks of climate change into its decision-making is no longer a matter of if, but when.”

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change of the United States, said this is a critical meeting on the security implications of the climate crisis. It is indisputable that the climate crisis is one of the top security threats to the entire planet and life on the planet itself. Countries are already spending billions of dollars each year, not on prevention, but on “cleaning up the mess”. The costs are an active threat against the livelihoods and peace of people everywhere on the planet.

“There is no finding peace for people around the world who are dying from pollution,” he said, referring to greenhouse gas emissions.

He said there is no legitimate debate about the severity of the crisis and no space for procrastination.

“The crisis is growing and undermining collective peace and security,” he said, adding that concerted action is needed by the Council and every Government around the world. The climate crisis’ impact on people’s lives and security will worsen every day and year that action is not taken.

He urged the international community to pledge resources for climate initiatives that integrate the needs of the most vulnerable people. He urged the Council to reimagine a United Nations system that integrates the climate crisis into conflict prevention and remediation in the peacekeeping missions.

He pointed to the three challenges facing the international community in Dubai at COP28: adaption, addressing loss and damage, and global stocktaking. This stocktaking must not only be a stark assessment of “where we are, but it must show a road map going forward”. Countries need to use existing tools and technology to reduce carbon emissions and recommit themselves to the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The decisive decade is now,” he said.