Remarks to the Security Council

Open debate on the maintenance of international peace and security: addressing the impacts of climate related disasters on international peace and security

January 25, 2019

As prepared for delivery.

Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you to the Government of the Dominican Republic for drawing attention to the impact of climate-related disasters on international peace and security with this Ministerial debate.

Taken alone, climate-related disasters, conflict and insecurity each threaten human security and development. But their convergence can lead to catastrophic impact on people and societies.

In the latest edition of its Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks environmental threats at the top of the list for the third year in a row - both in terms of impact and likelihood.

Extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, are listed as the risk most likely to happen over the next 10 years.

Climate change is a risk multiplier.  It aggravates already fragile situations, including in humanitarian contexts where communities have limited capacity to cope with additional shocks.

Climate change also feeds other drivers of insecurity and conflict.

For example, it is driving displacement and forced migration: The World Bank estimates that without urgent climate action, more than 140 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America will migrate within their countries’ borders by 2050, pressing on the coping capacities of already vulnerable communities and cities.

In our work on the ground, UNDP is a witness to the ways that climate change is driving insecurity and conflict.

We see the results and lessons that emerge from our sustainable development work -- including projects in close collaboration with our humanitarian and peacebuilding partners.

Three major themes have emerged:

1. We have the data and the means to be ambitious. Now we need to focus and get the job done:

As the IPCC report sets out, we have 12 years left to reach a 1.5 degree world. This requires more ambition and action than ever before.

There will be more extreme weather events, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, diminishing polar ice, ecosystem collapse, and declining crop yields. Each of these impacts will have untold effects on livelihoods and communities. The threat to coastal communities and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will be increasingly dire, and the development gains we have achieved together – including fighting global poverty --  will start to reverse.

But we can do what needs to be done.

All countries have Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that represent their pledges under the Paris Agreement. NDCs can be the gateway to successful climate action.

For NDCs to do their job, they need to be ambitious. They need to be implemented using a whole-of-government approach, breaking through economic, social and political hurdles.

We are seeing strong examples of cross-sectoral NDCs and providing integrated support as UNDP to advance their effectiveness.

Take the case of Iraq – where their NDC to the Paris Agreement focuses on the climate and security nexus, which includes mainstreaming climate risks, ecosystem restoration and solar solutions for crisis recovery in newly liberated areas.

We need to learn from Governments like Iraq that have approached NDCs in an integrated way and find ways to take their experiences to scale across the world.

2.     Having an effective and integrated agenda on climate, disaster risk reduction and peacebuilding will only be possible if we collectively reduce emissions.

Integrating efforts to tackle climate change, prepare for and respond to natural disasters and peacebuilding is the right approach. This is a core tenet of what Members States envisioned when they set the Sustainable Development Goals.

That is why fora like this are so important and welcome.

As the UN we are committed to improving our capacity to address the growing threat of climate-related security risks.   

UNDP, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, and the United Nations Environment Programme, are together establishing a climate security mechanism specifically to increase awareness of the role of climate-related security threats, to develop a risk assessment and response framework to address them and leverage existing capacities.

We aim to therefore enhance our integrated support to Member States and look forward to continuing this dialogue with the Security Council to support its early response capacities.

BUT, there is no getting away from the need to tackle emissions.

If we are not tackling greenhouse gases at the same time, then we are only ever treating the symptoms.

Tackling emissions will mean, for example, taking optimized nature-based solutions to scale.

Sustainable land use and forest management offer powerful and cost-effective means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Maintaining and expanding global forest cover, a natural carbon sink, not only contributes to tackling climate change but also protects against climate impacts, conserves critical biodiversity and ecosystem services, and benefits local economies.

It will also mean making tough choices, including on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, expanding carbon price markets, promoting energy efficiency, and removing policy, capacity, regulatory and financial barriers to facilitate this transition.

3.     Even if we get the first two right, people are still at risk today from the impacts of climate change, so investing in adaptation and resilience must be scaled-up.

Even if we curb emissions for a 1.5 degree world, and even if we improve our climate-security response, for many of the most vulnerable and most exposed people on the planet this will be too little, too late.

A strong focus on adaptation and disaster risk management is necessary to ensure we can sustain and advance national development priorities and achieve the 2030 Agenda.  

In our collaboration with over 170 countries and territories, we see excellent examples of this in action that – with the leadership and support of all Member States – can be scaled-up for accelerated impact.

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.

This initiative will expand insurance coverage in the Caribbean building on UNDP’s reconstruction work in the region.

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.

It is therefore most appropriate that the Dominican Republic as President of the Security Council draws us together today around this critical question.  

Climate change is not something that respects national sovereignty or geographic borders. It is not something any one nation can tackle effectively by itself.

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.

As UNDP we very much look forward to continuing this conversation, to accelerating our own commitment and support, and to working with our partners to take ambitious action.

Thank you, Mr. President, once again.