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Implications of climate change for the UN Security Council: mapping the range of potential policy responses

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Over the last decade there has been an evolving debate both within the United Nations and within the scholarly literature as to whether it would be feasible, appropriate and/or advantageous for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to consider climate change to be within its remit. Given that irreversible global warming is under way and that this will inevitably have multiple global security implications—and indeed, that the Council has to some degree already addressed the issue—such a debate has become anachronistic. What is needed at this stage is nuanced analysis of how this complex policy issue may have already impacted, and may in future impact, the function and functioning of the Council. This article first reviews key variables that need to be taken into account in moving beyond a binary discussion of whether or not the Security Council should consider climate change. It then maps four broad categories of possible UNSC response, spanning from rejection of any involvement through to the Council using its Chapter VII powers and functioning as the peak body in respect of global climate change governance. It then places developments to date within those categories and concludes by considering the prospects for an increased UNSC role in the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2015

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