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Climate and security

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

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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 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

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

In island states and in the Sahel region, the impact of human-induced climate change on stability and security is already very palpable.

Germany is therefore using its membership of the UN Security Council in 2019/2020 to raise awareness within the UN of the impact of climate change on security policy. We started in January of this year by working together with the Dominican Republic to prepare a Security Council debate, during which the member states discussed the impact of climate-related extreme weather events on peace and stability.

The German Security Council initiative on climate and security 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.

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 here.

The Security Council cannot and should not be a substitute for the established instruments of climate policy. After all, an ambitious climate policy remains the best way to limit climate risks. All countries need to step up their efforts in the area of climate protection, also in the interest 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.

In an effort to advance the discussion on the link between climate and security, Foreign Minister Maas hosted the high-level Berlin Conference on Climate and Security in June 2019. The Call for Action presented at the conference is a road map for concrete, preventive options aimed at tackling security risks caused by climate change at an early stage.

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