UNMISS Water Facility

An UNMISS solar water-yard facility in Juba County, South Sudan being handed over to local residents.

In 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the climate crisis as a “battle for our lives.” Shortly thereafter, he announced the UN Secretariat Climate Action Plan (UNSCAP), a 10-year plan to reduce the UN system’s greenhouse gas emissions globally. Significantly, UNSCAP makes the commitment to reduce the Secretariat’s carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. UNSCAP also calls for innovation and the intensification of current efforts in field missions to address climate change.

The plan focuses on peace operations, which reportedly account for almost 90 percent of the UN Secretariat’s total greenhouse gas emissions. While field missions are designed to support peace and security, their emissions and contributions to climate change may be paradoxically contributing to destabilization in their host nations. For example in east Africa, where UN missions are present in Somalia and South Sudan, climate shocks (such as flooding and drought) have displaced millions and increased food prices dramatically. Extensive drought has severely affected local farmers in Afghanistan, and according to research “the lack of water and the ensuing violence [has] had negative effects on the legitimacy of local state institutions and of the UN peace operation, which failed to mitigate/mediate the conflict.” Read more