Climate is a full-blown peace and security issue - President

United Nations – Maintaining international peace and security: climate and security – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, to the Security Council

By video conference, 23 February 2021


Prime ministers,

United Nations Secretary-General,

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

I’d like to begin by thanking Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom for organizing this meeting together with the Secretary General and hosting us for COP26 in Glasgow this year. I think we’re all clearly aware of the importance of this schedule, with the United States of America due to hold an important summit on 22 April, and I pay tribute to John Kerry, who I can see on the screen, who was present at the birth of the Paris Agreement and who was, as it were, a member of the resistance over the past four years. And so we’re all happy to see the United States of America fully back at the table. I have three very simple messages to share with you online, along with everything that has just been said.

The first is that we’ve been able to establish very clearly in recent years that the fight against climate change and to protect the environment is clearly a full-blown issue of peace and security. I won’t go back over the whole sustained agenda of the Paris Agreement or what we’ll probably be discussing virtually on 22 April and then in Glasgow, or our targets with regard to current and future generations. But very clearly, while the link between climate and security is complex, it’s undeniable, in a way inexorable and beyond even what can be written down.

Of the 20 countries most affected by conflicts in the world, 12 are also among the countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. In the Pacific, and for lack of any resolute action on adaptation, the inhabitants of some islands will have no choice but to leave their lands. And in recent years we’ve learned how the consequences of desertification, the reduction in fish stocks and opportunities to establish stable crops lead to conflict. The Lake Chad area is a perfect illustration of this; it’s suffered migration, and much of the conflict, in addition to the Islamist terrorism phenomenon, has been fuelled by forced migration due to climate change. The same is true of Boko Haram’s success in the region and the changing use of certain lands in north-eastern Nigeria. So we’re seeing very clearly the consequences in these areas of an uncontrolled climate agenda on insecurity and, in a way, on the emergence of new conflicts, but also – and I know how close this is to our secretary-general António Guterres’s heart – on the agenda of displaced people, migration and therefore refugees.

Climate refugees are constantly growing in number. Today climate refugees are becoming the first targets of the pandemic and the food crisis. And in a way, we can clearly see all these challenges building up. And very clearly, failure on the climate front would undermine efforts at conflict prevention and peacebuilding. That’s why I entirely support the initiative to refer these issues to the Security Council as part of its mandate to maintain international peace and security. The Council’s action must be guided by the need to mitigate the effects of climate change on populations and its consequences on the development of conflicts. This action can be carried out in the framework of effective multilateral climate diplomacy, and also by equipping ourselves with a set of available tools. After an extreme climate event, emergency humanitarian measures will be needed to save lives, ensure security and also provide the means for sustainable reconstruction. And in other cases, we’ll have to help communities adapt to the inexorable rise in water levels and to soil degradation.

It’ll also be necessary to think ahead, for example by providing small producers with insurance mechanisms to enable them to restart economic activity. And so we can clearly see this is an agenda that needs to be organized, an agenda of prevention and effectiveness which, on the one hand, justifies its being brought before the Security Council, and on the other hand fully justifies our support for the appointment of a special envoy for climate security to coordinate all these efforts. I’d see only advantages in the Secretary-General reporting annually to the Security Council on the climate’s impact on international security, in order to plan ahead, issue alerts, make recommendations and enable us to play our role.

My second point is that, in the face of this multiplier of threats, we must act effectively and each shoulder our responsibilities, particularly in three regions that seem to me especially vulnerable and where the multilateral agenda must be coordinated with the regional agenda and probably be more tailored in form. As we know, the consequences of climate change are unfairly distributed, and we must obviously take this into account in our commitments. A month ago, I argued that France’s share of climate finance devoted to adaptation should be increased. France will devote €2 billion per year, or one-third of climate finance, to adaptation. And action must be focused on several areas in particular.

First of all, Africa. It’s very clearly in Africa – the two examples I mentioned earlier showed this – that we have some of the most striking consequences of this climate-security link. On 11 January, at the One Planet Summit dedicated to biodiversity, we launched the Great Green Wall Accelerator. The Great Green Wall is an initiative that has existed for more than 10 years now, bringing together 11 Sahel States – and my greetings to all my Sahel friends who I can see here too – with the goal of restoring 100 million hectares of land for agriculture and creating 10 million jobs while sequestering 250 million tonnes of carbon, which would also be a remarkable contribution by Africa to the fight against global warming. On this agenda we’ve decided to reinvest, to restore governance, and we’re well aware that given what the Sahel countries are currently experiencing in the face of the terrorist threat, we have, by speeding up our responses in favour of biodiversity and against global warming in the Sahel, a very concrete instrument in the battle for the climate and peace. Completely, in conjunction. And exactly the same spirit in Africa has driven all the initiatives that have been taken for the tropical forest. I see the Prime Minister of Norway, who is here and who, alongside Chancellor Merkel, played a founding role in this initiative, which must continue to drive us. And I think it’s exactly this spirit we must give structure to. And in this regard, I think increased dialogue between the African Union and the United Nations would be extremely conducive to more effectively formalizing these instruments and articulating this debate.

It seems to me we must choose exactly the same methodology for the Indo-Pacific region. Today we have an enormous number of vulnerable States in the Indo-Pacific – and therefore the Pacific-Oceania – region. We know this: nation-States that will now have huge difficulty adapting unless we halt the course of global warming and climate disruption. The answers being given are the conditions for peace and stability in the entire region, and we must provide them in a multilateral framework, otherwise climate anxiety and climate disorder will solidify a geopolitical situation that we’re aware of, and will in a way be the instruments of a climate adaptation diplomacy that will create the wars of the coming years, by proposing resettlement, by proposing developments imposed by one or other major sovereign State in the region.

The third point is the agenda in the Arctic, which will be one of the major challenges of the coming years and will also be a climate and geopolitical challenge, combining the responses we must make to forestall and address the warming currently under way and avoid the geopolitical tensions that are emerging in the region. I wanted to emphasize these three regions, which are very specific theatres of new and bigger involvement by the international community and of the need for the United Nations and a multilateral agenda to prevent new conflicts.

Finally, the battle against the scourges of the 21st century must also be the catalyst for a newfound unity on the Security Council. The pandemic has shown us a reconciliation between the battles for global health, for biodiversity and against climate change. I believe the same is true when you add to these the issues of peace and security. We’re increasingly uniting these agendas around the protection of humanity and also creating ways and means to newly bolster effective multilateralism, in a way, and a need for the permanent members and all members of the Security Council to cooperate on this concrete agenda for the coming years, because at stake are not regional conflicts, which we might accept will deteriorate – although I don’t think we should ever come to terms with that – but our health, our lives and the stability of our planet.

Those are the three points I wanted to share with you, along with one strong belief, namely that the role of the United Nations and the Council on this issue is undoubtedly even more important today than yesterday, and that we’re faced with a speeding-up of time that ultimately unites these agendas. And I simply wanted to tell you how deeply France will be committed to this alongside you./.

Published on 26/02/2021

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