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Climate Change and International Peace and Security: Time for a ‘Green’ Security Council?

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Abstract

The United Nations Security Council is responsible under article 39 UN Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security, but many of the effects of climate change are currently experienced at the local or domestic level. Climate change-induced migration, for instance, currently occurs more often within States than between different States and armed conflicts over scarcer-growing natural resources (such as drinking-water) are fought more often between competing groups within one State than between different States. There is, thus, a mismatch between the Council’s classical competence under the Charter and the form the problem of climate change currently takes. Nevertheless, this article suggests four possible ways to justify the Council’s competence for the problem of climate change: first, an “individual case”-based approach in which the Council only becomes competent when there is an evident international dimension to a specific climate change-induced situation, not for climate change in general; second, an “imminent threat”-based approach that emphasizes that domestic tensions caused by climate change are particularly sensitive and can abruptly and at any time turn into threats to international peace and security; third, a “human rights”-based approach underlined by the position that the negative effects of climate change hinder the realization of human rights which in turn constitutes an international concern; and fourth, a “cause and solution”-based approach which acknowledges that the effects of climate change are currently largely local or domestic, while recognizing that both the cause (an international climate change “prisoner’s dilemma”) and the only possible solution (an agreement between States based on cooperation, trust and reciprocity) are inevitably “international” in nature.

Prof. Dr. Pierre Thielbörger, M.PP. (Harvard) is Professor of German Public Law and International Law, including the Law of Peace and Armed Conflict, at the law faculty of Ruhr-University Bochum. He is also Managing Director of the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr-University Bochum. He is thankful to his assistants Tobias Ackermann and Theresa Stollmann for the help with editing and research.

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Notes

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    IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Cambridge 2013, p. 1066; V. P. Pandey et al., Hydrologic Impacts of Climate Change: Quantification of Uncertainties, in: R. Surampalli et al. (eds.), Climate Change Modeling, Mitigation, and Adaptation, Reston 2013, pp. 256–257.

  2. 2.

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  3. 3.

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  4. 4.

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  5. 5.

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  6. 6.

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  7. 7.

    Id., art. 3 Kyoto Protocol, see on the Protocol, for example, C. Bail, Das Klimaschutzregime nach Kyoto, in: Europäische Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht 9 (1998), pp. 15, 457; P. Kunig, Völkerrechtsschutz für das Klima – Gedanken zu einem Prozess, in: W. Benedek et al. (eds.), Development and Developing International and European Law: Essays in Honour of Konrad Ginther on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, Frankfurt/M. 1999, pp. 251–262; J. Brunnée, The Kyoto Protocol: Testing Ground for Compliance Theories, in: Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 63 (2003), pp. 255–280.

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  9. 9.

    Statement of Canadian Minister of the Environment Kent, 12 December 2011, at http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=FFE36B6D-1&news=6B04014B-54FC-4739-B22C-F9CD9A840800.

  10. 10.

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  11. 11.

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  12. 12.

    UN Security Council, Statement by the President of the Security Council, 20 July 2011, UN Doc. S/PRST/2011/15.

  13. 13.

    Id., paras. 6, 7.

  14. 14.

    See UN Security Council, Press Release SC/10332, 20 July 2011.

  15. 15.

    In 1985, Boutros-Ghali stated “the next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, not politics”, quoted by I. M. Jacobs, The Politics of Water in Africa: Norms, Environmental Regions and Transboundary Cooperation in the Orange-Senqu and Nile Rivers, London/New York 2012, p. 15.

  16. 16.

    See, for example, UN News Centre, Annan Calls for “Blue Revolution” for Global Sharing of Scarce Freshwater, 22 March 2003, at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=6542#.VDld7fmSxuI.

  17. 17.

    See UN News Centre, Ban Ki-moon Warns that Water Shortages are Increasingly Driving Conflicts, 6 February 2008, at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=25527#.VDleJPmSxuI.

  18. 18.

    See, in particular, the statements of the Argentinean representative (delivered on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), of the Brazilian representative as well as of the Chinese representative during the 2011 Security Council debate, UN Security Council, Report of the 6587th meeting, 20 July 2011, UN Doc. S/PV.6587, pp. 26–8, 7–9, and 9, respectively.

  19. 19.

    C. Gray, The Use of Force and the International Law Order, in: M. D. Evans (ed.), International Law, 4th ed., Oxford 2014, pp. 618, 634; C. K. Penny, Greening the Security Council: Climate Change as an Emerging ‘Threat to International Peace and Security’, in: International Environmental Agreements 7 (2007), pp. 35, 48; N. Krisch, Art. 39, in: B. Simma et al. (eds.), The Charter of the United Nations, 3rd ed., Oxford 2012, p. 1278; M. N. Shaw, International Law, 6th ed., Cambridge 2008, at p. 1237.

  20. 20.

    Charter of the United Nations, Preamble, “we the peoples of the United Nations determined […] to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security […] have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.” (Italics added by the author.)

  21. 21.

    J. A. Frowein, Comments on Article 39, in: B. Simma et al. (ed.), The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, Vol. I, New York 1994, pp. 608–609.

  22. 22.

    C. Gray, supra note 19, p. 618; M. Wood, United Nations, Security Council, 2007, in: Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, at www.mpepil.com, para. 26; M. N. Shaw, supra note 19, pp. 301, 1237–1240; G. Nolte, Art. 2(7), in: B. Simma et al. (eds.), supra note 19, p. 1278.

  23. 23.

    A. Knight, Global Environmental Threats: Can the Security Council Protect Our Earth?, in: New York University Law Review 80 (2005), pp. 1549, 1566.

  24. 24.

    In favor of such extended competence, G. Nolte, supra note 22, p. 301, and ICTY, Prosecutor v Dusko Tadic, Appeal on Jurisdiction, 35 ILM 35, 43, para. 30; critical of such extension, J. A. Frowein, supra note 21, p. 409; B. Elberling, The Ultra Vires Character of Legislative Action by the Security Council, in: International Organizations Law Review 2 (2005), p. 337.

  25. 25.

    C. K. Penny, supra note 19, pp. 35, 48, 55–57.

  26. 26.

    See the statements, supra note 18.

  27. 27.

    S. Atapattu, Climate Change, Human Rights, and Forced Migration: Implications for International Law, in: Wisconsin International Law Journal 27 (2009), pp. 607, 610–613; N. Stern, The Economics of Climate Change. The Stern Review, Cambridge 2009, pp. 111–112; M. M. Naser, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, and Migration: A Complex Nexus, in: William & Mary Environmental and Policy Review 36 (2012), pp. 713, 746–750.

  28. 28.

    WHO/UNICEF, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-water: 2014 update, Geneva 2014, p. 6. One must note, however, that this number has recently been improved: as the most recent MDG report points out: from 1990 to 2012, 2.3 billion of people gained access to improved sanitation.

  29. 29.

    S. N. Gosling/N. W. Arnell, A Global Assessment of the Impact of Climate Change on Water Scarcity, in: Climate Change (2013), p. 1; IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Final Draft, Cambridge 2014, Chapter 3, p. 19.

  30. 30.

    The choice of these two cases is in some ways necessarily arbitrary. One could also think of other examples that have a more “international” dimension. However, it is undeniable that the two chosen examples are at least amongst the most severe effects of climate change. This way, the examples chosen enable us to conclude that, as I will show, some of the most important effects of climate occur more on the national or local rather than on the international level.

  31. 31.

    For example, N. Myers, Environmental Refugees, in: Population and Environment 19 (1997), p. 167; N. Myers, Environmental Refugees: A Growing Phenomenon of the 21st century, in: Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society: Biological Sciences 357 (2002), p. 609; P. Gonin/V. Lassaily-Jacob, Les réfugiés de l’environnement. Une nouvelle catégorie des migrants forcés?, in: Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales 18 (2002), p. 139.

  32. 32.

    For example, F. Laczko/C. Aghazarm (eds.), Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Assessing the Evidence, Geneva 2009, pp. 18–19.

  33. 33.

    For example, E. Marino, The Long History of Environmental Migration: Assessing Vulnerability Construction and Obstacles to Successful Relocation in Shishmaref, Alaska, in: Global Environmental Change 22 (2012), pp. 2, 374.

  34. 34.

    In this article, I will use the term “climate migrant”. On the one hand, the term “refugee”, at least in a classical understanding in the context of Art. 1 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, entered into force 22 April 1954, UNTS Vol. 189 (1954), p. 137, requires “persecution for reasons of race, religion” etc. and is therefore rejected by most scholars, see for instance S. Atapattu, supra note 27, pp. 607, 671. The term “environmental migrant” on the other hand mixes up persons whose motivations for migration are general environmental reasons and persons who becomes victims of climate change induced environmental changes.

  35. 35.

    See F. Laczko/C. Aghazarm (eds.), supra note 32, p. 5; see, also with various figures, S. Atapattu, supra note 27, pp. 607, 610–13; N. Stern, supra note 27, pp. 111–112; M. N. Naser, supra note 27, pp. 713, 746–750.

  36. 36.

    A. Bojanowski, Feared Migration Hasn’t Happened: UN Embarrassed by Forecast on Climate Refugees, Spiegel Online, 18 April 2011, at http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/feared-migration-hasn-t-happened-un-embarrassed-by-forecast-on-climate-refugees-a-757713.html.

  37. 37.

    See UNHCR, Internally Displaced People Figures, at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c23.html.

  38. 38.

    J. Hampton, Internally Displaced People: A Global Survey, 2nd ed., Abingdon/New York 2002.

  39. 39.

    M. Barlow/T. Clarke, Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water, New York 2002; V. Petrova, At the Frontiers of the Rush for Blue Gold: Water Privatization and the Human Right to Water, in: Brooklyn Journal of International Law 31 (2006), p. 577; M. Helal, Sharing Blue Gold: The 1997 UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses Ten Years On, in: Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy 18 (2007), p. 337.

  40. 40.

    For example, S. Hoffmann, Planet Water: Investing in the World’s Most Valuable Resource, Hoboken 2009; Water: The World’s Most Valuable Stuff, The Economist, 20 May 2010, at http://www.economist.com/node/16163366#.

  41. 41.

    UN News Centre, supra note 17; Iraq’s PM Warns Arab States May Face ‘Water War’, BBC News Online, 30 May 2012, at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18262496; F. Harvey, Water Wars Between Countries Could be Just Around the Corner, Davey Warns, The Guardian Online, 22 March 2012, at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/mar/22/water-wars-countries-davey-warns.

  42. 42.

    W. Hauge/T. Ellingsen, Beyond Environmental Scarcity: Causal Pathways to Conflict, in: Journal of Peace Research 35 (1998), p. 299; IPCC, supra note 29, chapter 3, p. 23; H. A. Amery, Water Wars in the Middle East: a Looming Threat, in: The Geographical Journal 168 (2002), p. 313.

  43. 43.

    D. C. Esty et al., State Failure Task Force Report: Phase II Findings, 1998; E. Miguel et al., Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach, in: Journal of Political Economy 112 (2004), p. 725; A. Carius/G. D. Dabelko/A. T. Wolf, Water Conflict, and Cooperation, ECSP Report 10, 2004, p. 60.

  44. 44.

    T. F. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, Princeton 1999.

  45. 45.

    P. Gleick, Water and Conflict: Fresh Water Resources and International Security, in: International Security 18 (1993), p. 79; P. Gleick/P. Yolles/H. Hatami, Water, War & Peace in the Middle East, in: Environment 36 (1994), p. 6; P. Gleick/M. Heberger, Water Conflict Chronology, at http://worldwater.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2013/07/ww8-red-water-conflict-chronology-2014.pdf. See also, on the prevention and resolution of water conflicts, A. T. Wolf et al., Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database, at http://www.transboundarywaters.orst.edu.

  46. 46.

    See IPCC, supra note 29, chapter 29; R. Kendall, Climate Change as a Security Threat to the Pacific Islands, in: New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law 16 (2012), p. 83; H. Xu, From Tuvalu to Kiribati, the outlook for Pacific island States is perilous, The Guardian Online, 28 August 2014, at http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/aug/28/tuvalu-kiribati-asia-pacific-island-states.

  47. 47.

    UN Security Council, Resolution 688, 5 April 1991, UN Doc. S/RES/0688 (1991); UN Security Council, Resolution 918, 17 May 1994, UN Doc. S/RES/918 (1994); UN Security Council, Resolution 1973, 17 March 2011, UN Doc. S/RES/1973 (2011).

  48. 48.

    UN Security Council, Resolution 688, 5 April 1991, UN Doc. S/RES/0688 (1991), at para. 3 of the preamble; UN Security Council, Resolution 918, 17 May 1994, UN Doc. S/RES/918 (1994), at para. 8; UN Security Council, Resolution 1973, 17 March 2011, UN Doc. S/RES/1973 (2011), at para. 15.

  49. 49.

    See F. Sindico, Ex-Post and Ex-Ante (Legal) Approaches to Climate Change Threats to the International Community, in: New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law 9 (2005), pp. 209, 213; M. R. Lowi, Water and Power: The Politics of a Scarce Resource in the Jordan River Basin, Cambridge 1995.

  50. 50.

    See F. Sindico, supra note 49, pp. 209, 213; C. McGrath, Nile River Damn Threatens War Between Egypt and Ethiopia, Common Dreams: Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community, 22 March 2014, at http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/03/22/nile-river-dam-threatens-war-between-egypt-and-ethiopia; P. Schwartzstein, Water Wars: Egyptians Condemn Ethiopia’s Nile Dam Project, National Geographic Online, 27 September 2013, at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/09/130927-grand-ethiopian-renaissance-dam-egypt-water-wars.

  51. 51.

    UN Security Council, Resolution 1373 (2001) and UN Security Council, Resolution 1988 (2011).

  52. 52.

    UN Security Council, Resolution 1308 (2000).

  53. 53.

    N. Krisch, supra note 19, p. 1282.

  54. 54.

    B. Elberling, supra note 24, p. 337.

  55. 55.

    See, for instance, the background information on Ebola and the 2014 outbreak at the WHO’s website, at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en.

  56. 56.

    UN Security Council, Resolution 688, 5 April 1991, UN Doc. S/RES/0688 (1991). Out of many, see A. Cassese, International Law, 2nd ed., Oxford 2005, pp. 347–348.

  57. 57.

    ICJ, Case Concerning the Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company, Limited (Belgium v. Spain), Judgment, 5 February 1970, ICJ Reports 1970, pp. 3, 33; J. A. Frowein, Obligations erga omnes, 2008, in: Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, at www.mpepil.com; M. Ragazzi, The Concept of International Obligations Erga Omnes, Oxford 2000.

  58. 58.

    K. S. Ziegler, Domaine Réservé, 2013, in: Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, at www.mpepil.com, paras. 30–32; A. von Arnauld, Völkerrecht, Heidelberg 2012, p. 141, para. 352.

  59. 59.

    W. Benedek/M. C. Kettemann/M. Möstl, Mainstreaming Human Security in Peace Operations and Crisis Management, London 2010; W. Benedek, Human Security and Human Rights Interaction, in: M. Goucha/J. Crowley (eds.), Rethinking Human Security, Oxford/Malden 2008, p. 7; W. Benedek, Human Rights and Human Security: Challenges and Prospects, in: A. Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos (ed.), L’Etat Actuel des Droits de l’Homme dans le Monde: Defis et Perspectives, Paris 2006, p. 97.

  60. 60.

    N. Krisch, supra note 19, p. 1287.

  61. 61.

    See for instances the draft resolutions, UN Docs. S/2008/447, S/2012/77, S/2011/612.

  62. 62.

    UNSC Res 688 (1991); UNSC Res. 794 (1992); UNSC Res. 929 (1994); UNSC Res. 1078 (1996).

  63. 63.

    International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), The Responsibility to Protect, Ottawa 2001, at http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/ICISS%20Report.pdf; UN General Assembly, Resolution 60/1, 24 October 2005, UN Doc. A/RES/60/1, paras. 138–139.

  64. 64.

    Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Art. 5 to 8 bis, entered into force 1 July 2002, UNTS Vol. 2187 (2004), 3.

  65. 65.

    ETO Consortium, Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2013, at http://www.etoconsortium.org/en/library/maastricht-principles; M. Milanovic, Extraterritorial Applications of Human Rights Treaties: Law, Principles, and Policy, Oxford 2011; O. Hathaway et al., Human Rights Abroad: When Do Human Rights Treaty Obligations Apply Extraterritorially, in: Arizona State Law Journal 43 (2011), p. 389.

  66. 66.

    M. Nowak, U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: CCPR Commentary, 2nd ed., Kehl 2005, pp. 43–44; C. Tomuschat, Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism, 2nd ed., Oxford 2008, pp. 129–132.

  67. 67.

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  69. 69.

    See, on the economical side of climate change, N. Stern, supra note 27; R. S. J. Tol, The Economic Effects of Climate Change, in: Journal of Economic Perspectives 23 (2009), p. 29; D. C. Esty/A. Moffa, supra note 67, p. 777.

  70. 70.

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  71. 71.

    E. Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge 1990.

  72. 72.

    Admittedly, this “international” level would not necessarily have to be “global” or “universal”. Much can also be said for regional and sectoral approaches, see for instance K. H. Engel, Mitigating Global Climate Change in the United States: A Regional Approach, in: New York University Environmental Law Journal 14 (2005), p. 54; I. Whitehead, Climate Change in Southeast Asia: Risk, Regulation and Regional Innovation, in: Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law 16 (2013), p. 141; IPCC, supra note 29, Chapter 14.

  73. 73.

    ICJ, Reparation for Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations, Advisory Opinion of 11 April 1949, ICJ Reports 1949, pp. 174, 180. See N. M. Blokker, International Organizations or Institutions, Implied Powers, 2008, in: Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, at www.mpepil.com; K. Skubiszewski, Implied Powers of International Organizations, in: Y. Dinstein (ed.), International Law at a Time of Perplexity: Essays in Honour of Shabtai Rosenne, Dordrecht 1989, p. 855; for an “implied powers”-approach to environmental protection, also see C. Voigt, Security in a ‘Warming World’: Competence of the UN Security Council for Preventing Dangerous Climate Change, in: C. M. Bailliet (ed.), Security: A Multidisciplinary Normative Approach, Leiden 2009, pp. 291, 298; for a critique of using the doctrine for expanding the Security Council’s mandate, see K. E. Boon, Coining a New Jurisdiction: The Security Council as Economic Peacekeeper, in: Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 41 (2008), pp. 991, 1011.

  74. 74.

    T. Ng, Safeguarding Peace and Security in our Warming World: A Role for the Security Council, in: Journal of Conflict & Security Law 15 (2010), pp. 275, 297; C. Voigt, supra note 73, p. 306.

  75. 75.

    See, for example, the statements of H. Wieczorek-Zeul (Germany) and M. Beckett (United Kingdom), in: Security Council, Press Release: Security Council Holds First Ever Debate on Impact of Climate Change on Peace, Security, Hearing over 50 Speakers, UN Doc. SC/9000 (2007); as well as those of P. Wittig (Germany) and M. L. Grant (United Kingdom), in: Security Council, Press Release: Security Council, in statement, Says ‘Contextual Information’ on Possible Security Implications of Climate Change Important When Climate Impacts Drive Conflict, UN Doc. SC/10332 (2011).

  76. 76.

    See statements of V. Churkin (Russian Federation) and F. Amil (Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), in: Security Council, Press Release: Security Council Holds First Ever Debate on Impact of Climate Change on Peace, Security, Hearing over 50 Speakers, supra note 75; as well as those of V. Churkin (Russian Federation) and M. L. R. Viotti (Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), in: Security Council, Press Release: Security Council, in statement, Says ‘Contextual Information’ on Possible Security Implications of Climate Change Important When Climate Impacts Drive Conflict, supra note 75.

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Thielbörger, P. (2016). Climate Change and International Peace and Security: Time for a ‘Green’ Security Council?. In: Heintze, HJ., Thielbörger, P. (eds) From Cold War to Cyber War. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-19087-7_5

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