Women walk under filao trees planted to slow coastal erosion and protect the beginning of the Great Green Wall, Senegal, Nov. 5, 2021. A lack of funding and political will, as well as rising insecurity linked to extremist groups in Burkina Faso, are obstructing progress on Africa's Great Green Wall, according to experts. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

One of the key themes that emerged from the just concluded COP27 is the recognition that climate change does not only exacerbate the causes and effects of conflict, but also impacts the capacity of communities and institutions (the African Union or the United Nations, for example) to help make, keep, and build peace in specific contexts. On the one hand, climate change-related effects, such as droughts and floods, undermine the resilience of communities and institutions in places like Iraq and Somalia to maintain and consolidate peace. On the other, conflict-related effects, like displacement or the disruption of livelihood practices, disrupt the capacity of communities and institutions to adapt to climate change in places like Afghanistan or Mali. At the same time, cooperation to manage a shared resource or to cope with natural disasters can also generate peace dividends by strengthening social cohesion and societal resilience. This means that actions to address the effects of climate challenges can also contribute to sustaining peace; vice versa, peacebuilding initiatives can, at times, also strengthen the capacity of communities to adapt to climate change.

The climate security agenda

The climate security debate has gained traction over the last decade, both in scope and level of engagement. Commonly understood as the cause-and-effect relationships between climatic factors and security, the climate security discourse has led to a greater understanding of the compounding and cascading risks and challenges facing global conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives. Recent debates at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) further reinforce the understanding that the far-reaching implications of climate change are not only a national security issue, but a global security concern. Language recognizing the intricate interlinkages between climate change, peace, and security can now be found in numerous Council resolutions and presidential statements.

The increased awareness of these interlinkages led to the establishment of the Group of Friends of Climate Security and an Independent Expert Group among UNSC members. At the UN Secretariat, the formation of the Climate Security Mechanism in 2018 has been an important institutional catalyst for integrating the climate and security agenda more systematically into the Secretariat’s work. The deployment of climate security advisors is seen as a much-needed next step in ensuring that UN peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding is informed by climate-sensitive analysis and programming responsive to the local context, and that the UN system’s climate adaptation programming is both conflict-sensitive and designed to generate peace dividends that can help to sustain peace. Read more