“We cannot negotiate with nature”: Heiko Maas chairs UN debate on climate and security

Extremwetterereignisse, Dürren, Wasserknappheit: Die Folgen des Klimawandels verstärken in vielen Regionen schon jetzt Konflikte.

Extremwetterereignisse, Dürren, Wasserknappheit: Die Folgen des Klimawandels verstärken in vielen Regionen schon jetzt Konflikte., © Danielle Parry/OCHA

24.07.2020 - Article

The impact of climate change is posing a growing threat to peace and security. Germany is therefore putting climate and security on the Security Council’s agenda.

The impact of climate change is an increasingly important factor in conflicts

Whether in the Sahel region, on Pacific islands or in the Caribbean, the impact of climate change is already being felt – and is exacerbating conflicts in many of the world’s regions already today. Extreme weather events, droughts, water shortages and rising sea levels will have an ever greater impact on stability and security around the world in the future.

Germany is therefore using its Presidency of the UN Security Council to put the key issue of climate and security on the agenda. Together with the large majority of the UN member states, the Federal Government is working to ensure that the Security Council addresses the impact of climate change for peace and security worldwide on a regular basis and in a systematic manner in the future.

The vast majority of UN member states consider enshrining the issue of climate and security on the agenda to be an important priority. This issue was already a focus of Germany’s Security Council membership in 2011, but there is still much to be done to achieve consensus among all Security Council members and to make tangible progress.

Foreign Minister Maas said the following during the debate:

The fight against climate change should not divide us. We fight it to save ourselves. And we fight it for the people around the world who are already facing violence and displacement as a result of climate change. They cannot afford to wait.

Where the UN Security Council can make a difference: the Informal Expert Group

Germany enjoys the support of a Group of Friends comprising over 50 states. Their common objective is to enable the Security Council to identify risks at an early stage and to act before conflicts break out or escalate. To this end, the Security Council requires improved risk analyses and assessments by experts in the UN’s areas of operation. Foreign Minister Maas therefore announced at the Security Council meeting that he intends to establish an Informal Expert Group on climate and security, thus permanently enshrining this issue on the Security Council’s agenda.

This issue is also to become more firmly rooted in the UN missions. Germany is currently funding an expert who is advising the UN country team in Somalia on the security risks that are being exacerbated by climate change. This practice will also be established at other missions.

Impressions from the Pacific island of Niue and the Niger

In addition to numerous foreign ministers, representatives of two of the regions most affected by climate change also took part in the debate. The expert Coral Pasisi joined the debate live from the small Pacific island of Niue. The Pacific is affected by the impacts of rising sea levels more than almost any other region. In Niue, climate change is increasingly affecting livelihoods as fish stocks decline, forcing more and more people to leave their homes.

In addition, Colonel Magagi, head of a think tank in the Niger, briefed the Security Council on the impact that climate change is having on peace and security in the Sahel. Droughts are destroying the livelihoods of more and more people in the region as rivers and lakes dry up and entire harvests fail.

Engagement above and beyond the Security Council

Germany’s engagement in the field of climate and security goes far beyond its work in the Security Council. At the second Berlin Climate and Security Conference in June 2020, Maas launched a comprehensive report on climate security risks, which will be published in 2022. One goal is to identify tangible approaches to solutions, for example in the area of early warning mechanisms.

The Federal Foreign Office is also helping the UN to prepare a study on climate security risks in the Horn of Africa. Moreover, as part of a model project Germany is funding the United Nations Environment Programme’s very first environmental security adviser, who is supporting the UN peace mission in Somalia (UNSOM).


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