Security in a ‘Warming World’: Competences of the Un Security Council for Preventing Dangerous Climate Change

Published as: Voigt, Christina (2009) Security in a ‘Warming World’: Competences of the UN Security Council for Preventing Dangerous Climate Change, in: C. Bailliet (ed.) ‘Security: A Multidisciplinary Normative Approach’ (Leiden: Brill Publishers) 291-312.

University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2015-27

25 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2015 Last revised: 16 Sep 2015

Date Written: July 30, 2009

Abstract

Without resolute counteraction, the effects of climate change are likely to exceed many societies’ adaptive capacities to internal or external stresses within the coming decades. This could result in destabilization and violence, jeopardizing national and international security to a new and unknown degree.2 Currently there still is a window of opportunity for avoiding dangerous anthropogenic climate change by adopting a dynamic and coordinated global climate policy. Yet, the outlook of getting an effective international climate treaty into place in time to avoid dangerous climate change is dim; the chances for stopping climate change at a non-dangerous level rapidly decreasing.

If not halted, the likelihood sharply increases that climate change will draw ever deeper lines of division and conflict in international relations. It has the potential to trigger numerous conflicts between and within countries over the distribution of resources (especially water and land), over the management of migration, or over compensation payments between the countries mainly responsible for climate change and those countries most affected by its destructive effects.3 In giving recognition to this threat, on April, the Security Council held its first-ever debate on the impact of climate change on international peace and security.4 No concrete action or decision followed this debate.The main achievement was perhaps that of global awareness rising of the consequences of climate change rather than any concrete outcome.

Prior and during the debate there had been strong opposition from some countries to any suggestion that the Security Council play a role in the international response to climate change. At the same time, the ever-increasing urgency of decisive action to address climate change, combined with the challenge’s scale and complexity, suggest that at this stage all options (including a more active role of the Security Council) ought to be examined.

The second part will give an overview over the controversial discussion about the link between climate change and security threats. The third part deals with the normative concept of peace and security in the UN Charter and its relationship to climate change as a (possible) non-military threat. Part four assesses the current multilateral climate regime for its effectiveness to prevent climate change related threats.The fifth part investigates the mandate of the Security Council with regard to addressing environmental threats.Of particular interest in this context are the Council’s competences to impose sanctions, to ‘legislate’, and to condemn state actions or in actions.5 Also, in this part, the competences of the Security Council to request of the International Court of Justice an advisory on opinion legal questions in relation to climate change will be analyzed in connection. Part six concludes this chapter.

Keywords: climate change, competences of the security council, legislative powers

JEL Classification: K33, K21

Suggested Citation

Voigt, Christina, Security in a ‘Warming World’: Competences of the Un Security Council for Preventing Dangerous Climate Change (July 30, 2009). Published as: Voigt, Christina (2009) Security in a ‘Warming World’: Competences of the UN Security Council for Preventing Dangerous Climate Change, in: C. Bailliet (ed.) ‘Security: A Multidisciplinary Normative Approach’ (Leiden: Brill Publishers) 291-312.; University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2015-27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2637844 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2637844

Christina Voigt (Contact Author)

University of Oslo ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavsplass
Oslo, 0130
Norway

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