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Deepening UN Action on Climate Security

US President Joe Biden Addresses the UN General Assembly, 21 Sept 2021. Photo Credit UN Photo/Ariana Lindquist.

As the high-level meetings of the 76th UN General Assembly kick off this week, climate change is front and center. Secretary-General Guterres led with a strong call to action, saying “The world must wake up,” to the, “the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes.” On Thursday, the UN Security Council (UNSC) prepares to debate climate security again. Ahead of the meeting, it’s useful to examine how the UN can drive action to match the ambition of past verbal commitments. How can it implement climate security practices to address the increasing risks to peace posed by rising temperatures? The 2021 World Climate and Security Report, released in June of this year, has some answers to this question, which we have excerpted below: 

The UN system has long led the global effort on negotiated reductions in national emissions. With key nations and other multilateral institutions unable or unwilling to act, the UN process has persevered in keeping negotiated climate action on the global agenda. With political will now building within its most powerful members, the UN-led international system must seize the initiative to address all aspects of climate change drawing on the core tenets of its founding principles: peace, security, sovereignty, and human rights. It must adapt and update treaties and protocols that govern the global commons and shared environmental resources. 

There are important steps all UN member states can take within their regional blocks and in the General Assembly to advocate for climate security integration into UN institutions and processes. These longer-term actions will require sustained commitment and coalition-building to enact. Broad-based support will be especially critical in the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee which has authority over budget and management issues. These steps include: 


Announcing the 2021-2022 Climate Security Fellows

The Center for Climate and Security, the American Security Project, and the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program are pleased to announce the 2021-2022 Climate and Security Advisory Group’s Climate Security Fellows cohort. The group of 15 rising leaders come from diverse backgrounds across the U.S. government and the civil and private sectors, where they are emerging experts on the links between climate change and national security. We are thrilled to welcome them to this program, and encourage you to learn more about this impressive cohort below.


EVENT: Ticking Clock-The Intersection of Climate & Security

The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) and the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) with the support of the US Embassy in France, are pleased to invite you to the webconference Ticking Clock: The Intersection of Climate and Security, on 14 September 2021, 6:30 PM CEST/12:30 PM ET.

Please click here to RSVP.

Introductory Remarks: Elizabeth Martin-Shukrun, Cultural Advisor at the US Embassy in France


Adrien Esteve, Postdoctoral Researcher at Sciences Po, Center for International Studies (CERI)

Kate Guy, Senior Research Fellow at CCS & Deputy Director of the International Military Council on Climate and Security

Erin Sikorsky, Director of CCS & International Military Council on Climate and Security

Julia Tasse, Head of the Climate and Energy Program at IRIS

Chair: Sofia Kabbej, Research Fellow on Climate, Security & Geoengineering at IRIS

Balancing on a Knife’s Edge: Climate Security Implications of the IPCC Findings

A wildfire at Florida Panther NWR. Photo by Josh O'Connor - USFWS.
A wildfire at Florida Panther NWR. Photo by Josh O’Connor – USFWS.

By Akash Ramnath and Kate Guy

New scientific consensus released today details the potential future course of climate change, with serious repercussions for international security and stability. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first product of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), summarizing the latest scientific understanding on the state of global climate change. This report, completed by the IPCC Working Group I (WGI), offers the best collective picture of how human caused climate change is impacting the physical systems of the planet now and in the future. 

The report makes clear that our planet’s climatic systems are changing rapidly in response to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. By 2100, global average temperatures are expected to rise between 2.1-3.5°C in an intermediate scenario, or 3.3-5.7°C in a high emissions scenario, if humans do not curb and continue expanding greenhouse gas emitting activities. The path to keeping global temperatures to just 1.5°C of warming, the report states, looks increasingly narrow; while every additional fraction of a degree in planetary warming will have worsening impacts on climate stability.

The findings of the WGI report have two important implications for security audiences: First, cutting emissions and adapting to climate impacts are equally important for security in the coming years; second, that the increasing risk of crossing climate tipping points suggests security services must prepare for managing multiple climate-induced crises at once. 

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