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Weather extremes can threaten stability and peace

The aftermath of tropical storm Tomas in the Dominican Republic in 2010

The aftermath of tropical storm Tomas in the Dominican Republic in 2010, © EPA/ORLANDO BARRIA

22.01.2019 - Article

Germany is putting the impact of climate change on the agenda of the UN Security Council

Human-induced climate change is not only an environmental phenomenon, but is also one of the main security threats of the 21st century. Rising sea levels, more frequent weather extremes and the growing risk of environmental disasters are depriving people of their livelihoods in affected regions to an ever greater extent. Climate change is therefore increasingly becoming a risk multiplier that threatens the stability of countries and societies worldwide.

Climate change as an issue for the UN Security Council

The impact of human-induced climate change on stability and security is already clearly making itself felt such as in island states and the Sahel region today. However, security issues have only played a subordinate role in the discussion on climate change to date. 
Germany therefore intends to use its membership of the UN Security Council for the 2019/2020 term to raise awareness within the UN of the impact of climate change on security policy. The members of the Security Council will start by discussing the impact of climate-related extreme weather events on peace and stability on 25 January under the presidency of the Dominican Republic. 
This is an overdue security policy addition to climate policy as a whole. The international community needs to take action in places where climate change poses a threat to people’s livelihoods before conflicts break out or escalate. The Security Council must also be capable of taking action in this regard. 

Foreign Minister Maas at the United Nations
Foreign Minister Maas at the United Nations© dpa

Interplay between prevention and crisis response

The Security Council must therefore be equipped to take concrete action in situations where the impact of climate change exacerbates conflicts. It therefore requires reliable and comprehensive information. To this end, all relevant information must be pooled, processed and evaluated in the UN system. Early warning systems should play a key role in the future in this regard.
The Security Council cannot and should not be a substitute for the established instruments of climate policy. After all, an ambitious climate policy continues to be the best way to limit climate risks. All countries need to step up their efforts in the area of climate protection, also in the interests of global security and stability. As long as the international community’s climate goals are not sufficient to limit global warming to an acceptable level, they must address the foreign and security policy impact of climate change. 
Germany intends to counter climate risks with preventive and stabilising climate diplomacy. In order to advance the discussion on the nexus between climate and security, the Federal Foreign Office is scheduled to host the high-level Berlin Conference on Climate and Security in June 2019.

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