Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on climate change and security at the UN Security Council (video conference)

24.07.2020 - Speech

As diplomats and politicians, we tend to think that everything is negotiable. This is also the underlying idea behind the Security Council: building international consensus.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot negotiate with nature. And the physical, chemical and geographical realities of global warming will not compromise with us.

Climate change is happening. And its consequences for peace and security are already real: from the Sahel to the islands of the Pacific and the Caribbean.

Sooner rather than later, climate change will be a catalyst in almost every conflict that we are dealing with. Our briefers have made this very clear today.

So, the defining question for us is this: will we finally live up to that challenge?

The answer given by the vast majority of the members of this Council and the United Nations as a whole is clear: they expect us to take action. And so do future generations.

Today, we are proposing three steps that can be taken right away:

First, the Security Council needs better information on climate-related security risks. This should include early warning indicators, allowing us to act before it is too late. At an international conference in Berlin last month, we launched a Global Climate Security Risk and Foresight Assessment. It can become a reference point for our work in this Council, and also a tool to strengthen UN efforts on mediation and preventive diplomacy as a whole. This will also require better training and expertise within UN missions and mediation teams. As an example, Germany is funding an expert who advises the country team in Somalia on the security implications of climate change. This should become a standard practice in all UN operations.

Second, it is time to give climate and security a face.

We call on the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on Climate and Security as soon as possible. He or she could ensure that climate change is placed where it belongs: at the heart of this Council’s work, which is to maintain international peace and security in the 21st century.

And, third, the United Nations needs to be ready to act when climate-related security risks hit. Such risks must therefore be addressed in all mandates and conflict prevention strategies. Together with our partners, we will convene an Informal Expert Group of the Security Council on climate and security as soon as possible. Our goal is to enshrine this topic in the Council’s work – once and for all.

Today, I invite all of you to join us! And I am grateful and confident that our joint initiative will be carried forward by those who succeed us in this Council.

Ladies and gentlemen,
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.

And therefore, ladies and gentlemen, the time for diplomatic patience is over. This Council cannot negotiate with the realities of nature.

Action is all that counts.

Thank you very much!


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