Climate shocks are causing increasingly precarious security environments worldwide, prompting UN peacekeeping missions to take measures to adapt. These initiatives range from reducing their carbon footprint to addressing the diverse consequences arising from climate change.
Recognizing the growing connections between climate change, peace, and security, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, emphasized the need for continued adaptation. The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report highlighted the rising interaction between climatic risks, biodiversity loss, and violent conflict.
During the Security Council’s second formal meeting in 2023, over 70 speakers, including Nobel Prize laureate Juan Manuel Santos, discussed the interlinkages between climate change and worsening security. Lacroix provided an overview of ongoing efforts, stating that UN peace operations have faced increased dangers and political challenges in recent years.
The majority of UN field missions are deployed in countries highly exposed to climate risks and characterized by significant gender inequality. Notably, nine of the 16 most climate-vulnerable nations host UN field missions, including Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen. Consequently, UN peace operations witness firsthand the dual vulnerabilities posed by climate change and insecurity.
To address these challenges, UN field missions prioritize actions such as strengthening capacities to anticipate and address climate and security interlinkages, reinforcing the benefits of climate action for safer environments, and ensuring missions do not contribute to the problem.
Guided by the Environmental Strategy for Peace Operations, the UN has been gradually introducing renewable energy solutions to reduce the environmental footprint and minimize security risks. As of 2022, six percent of the electricity used by UN peace operations stemmed from renewable sources. Encouraging new initiatives include the Nepal-United States partnership deploying a large-scale solar hybrid system in Rumbek, South Sudan, and the Energy Compact in Peace Operations launched by the United Arab Emirates and Norway.
The integration of dedicated capacity on climate, peace, and security within field missions has proven transformative, strengthening their ability to implement mandates. Lacroix highlighted the forthcoming 2023 UN Peacekeeping ministerial meeting in Ghana, set to generate pledges that address needs across various areas, including the environment and specialized capabilities.
Juan Manuel Santos urged the Security Council to take further action, emphasizing the convergence of climate change and conflict in the real world. He stressed that climate change exacerbates threats to human security, while war damages nature and the environment. Santos called for the Security Council to work alongside other UN entities and international institutions to find sustainable and equitable solutions.
Santos proposed several actions, including more effective integration of climate into UN operations, the deployment of climate and security advisors within peacekeeping missions, and the use of climate forecasting to anticipate and mitigate risks in fragile contexts.
He underscored the interconnectedness of peace and sustainable development, stating that protecting and sustainably managing forests, soils, and rivers are fundamental to maintaining peace. Santos called for bold policy action, including mitigation, adaptation, and nature-positive solutions such as conserving high-integrity ecosystems.
Santos urged Council members to foster common ground, constructive dialogue, and cooperation, emphasizing that unity and cooperation are paramount for global survival.