UN Development Chief to Security Council: Climate change ‘aggravates fragile situations, feeds insecurity and conflict’

Posted January 25, 2019

- Says despite immense challenges, ‘we can do what needs to be done’

New York City, 25 January – The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is witnessing firsthand the ways that climate change drives insecurity and conflict around the world, but we have the data and the means to do what needs to be done, said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner to members of the UN Security Council today.

Addressing the Council via audio link as it debated the effects of climate-related disasters on international peace and security, Steiner warned of the increasingly threat to peace, security and development posed by climate change.

“There will be more extreme weather events, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, diminishing polar ice, ecosystem collapse, and declining crop yields,” he said. “Each of these impacts will have untold effects on livelihoods and communities.”

Referring to a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Steiner warned that only 12 years remained if the world was to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“But we can do what needs to be done”, he said, adding that the world had both the “data and the means” to successfully tackle climate change.

Referring to the lessons that had emerged from UNDP’s work on sustainable development, including in collaboration with humanitarian and peacebuilding partners, Steiner focused on three themes that had emerged that were of critical importance.

First, countries’ climate action pledges needed to be ambitious and break through economic, social and political hurdles, he said.

Second, Steiner emphasized the importance of reducing emissions, without which “we are only ever treating the symptoms of climate change.”

Lastly, conceding that even if emissions were curbed sufficiently for a 1.5 degree world, many of the world’s most vulnerable and exposed would still suffer the effects of climate change, Steiner called for increased investment in adaptation and resilience for people at risk.

“Climate change is not something that respects national sovereignty or geographic borders. It is not something any one nation can tackle effectively by itself”, he concluded. “If we rise to this challenge, we will have demonstrated the purpose of multilateralism as it was originally conceived – to solve challenges that are bigger than ourselves.”

With a portfolio of more than US$3 billion, UNDP is the largest implementer of climate action in the UN System, and works with countries to turn their climate goals into action.

In the Maldives, where rising sea levels threaten fresh water supplies, the government and UNDP piloted an innovative integrated water management system across 3 islands. Building on the success of the pilot, the Green Climate Fund provided financing to scale up the integrated water management system across 45 islands, securing a combination of rainwater and groundwater for 26% of the population.

In the Caribbean, in partnership with the four largest insurance companies in the region, UNDP has supported the government to design an initiative to facilitate financial risk transfer from climate vulnerable households to the private sector.

In the Dominican Republic, in partnership with the government and UNDP, a vulnerability Index to Climate Shocks, the first of its kind worldwide, was developed to measure households’ probability of being vulnerable to hurricanes, storms and other climate phenomena.

It has been used not only in the context of social protection policy systems but also as a tool for disaster risk planning and disaster response.

At the heart of this is our post-Paris climate commitment to support countries to design and deliver on ambitious national pledges for climate action, paving the way toward a more sustainable world for all.

Media contact 

For more information or to request an interview, please contact christina.lonigro@undp.org or dylan.lowthian@undp.org