Statement by President Alar Karis at UN Security Council open debate on International peace and security in the context climate change

Mr President, Secretary General, distinguished briefers, dear Colleagues.

I wish to express my appreciation to Niger for convening this important meeting today and thank the Secretary-General Mr Guterres and all the briefers for their remarks. Climate change and terrorism pose a significant threat to international peace and security. The scope and intensity fluctuates geographically, but it is clear that both phenomena know no borders and continents.

Allow me to start with a telling example, the case of Himalayan glaciers. Scientists have described that dust blowing from as far as the Sahara is one of the main drivers for the accelerating melting of the glaciers. This, in turn, changes the monsoon patterns in the region and has upset the ecosystem in the Arabian Sea, leading to a near collapse of the fish stocks on which millions of people depend. What will these people do next?

Mr President,

Research has identified multiple pathways through which climate change interacts with political, social and environmental stresses to compound existing vulnerabilities and tensions. Rising temperatures and extreme weather put pressure on natural resources and undermine livelihood, causing tensions and displacement.

For example, in 2020, nearly 31 million people were displaced within their own countries because of natural disasters, caused by extreme weather events and climate change. Again, persons in vulnerable situations were hit harder. The World Bank recently estimated that the total number of “climate migrants” could be as high as 216 million by the year 2050. Research indicates that already today, most areas that experience net-negative migration also have high environmental stress and low capacity to adapt to changes.

Climate change but also other forms of environmental degradation, prepare the ground for social instability, conflicts, terrorism and extremism. They act as threat multipliers amplifying security risks and provoking human rights violations. Therefore, we also welcome the activities by the Sahel Alliance dealing with the consequences of climate change by increasing food security as well as dealing with unemployment among youth. Tackling the root causes of terrorism is just one of the benefits when we make a global concerted effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.

We see conflicts for natural resources within and between states. We also see people who have become desperate for having lost their livelihoods, homes, loved ones or hope for a better future. This opens up opportunities for illegal trade and creates conditions for terrorist organizations to take advantage of the unstable situation and desperation of people. This is what we currently witness for example also at the European borders.

Mr President,

Social and economic conditions play a significant part in enabling the rise of terrorism and extremism. Therefore, to counter terrorism and extremism we must understand and address the root causes on the national, regional and global level. Causes such as global inequalities, forced migrations and scarcity of vital resources such as clean water and agricultural land etc. We believe that all mechanisms that help to reduce poverty, inequalities and adaptation problems brought by rapid social, cultural and environmental changes also help to fight terrorism by nipping it in the bud.

Countries, that are facing armed conflicts, have limited resources for initiatives that could bring the country out of conflict. Building climate-resilient societies require a much more concerted international effort in order to ensure international peace and security.

However, the Security Council has the relevant tools and the mandate to respond to climate-related security risks.

It is time to go beyond the holding of thematic debates and to take a more ambitious notion of climate and security – we need a Security Council resolution on climate and security – this is the only way to advance our discussions and make a difference.

We reiterate that it is of utmost importance that the Secretary-General of the United Nations receives a mandate to collect data and coordinate policy to that aim, regular reporting would be a major step forward towards developing tangible prevention measures.

Mr President,

As mentioned many times before, women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change and are frequently targeted by terrorist groups. The recognition of the importance of women’s leadership and participation, and engagement of the youth is the key in developing strategies to counter terrorism and the effects of climate change. This is the only way to build resilient communities for everyone.

In conclusion, we can no longer ignore these challenges posing a threat to international peace and security. We must prevent the unavoidable effects of climate change from contributing to the destabilization of countries and entire regions, which risks leading to new armed conflicts or worsening existing conflicts.

Thank you!