Climate Change and the UN Security Council
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Climate Change and the UN Security Council

Edited by Shirley V. Scott and Charlotte Ku

In this forward-looking book, the authors consider how the United Nations Security Council could assist in addressing the global security challenges brought about by climate change. Contributing authors contemplate how the UNSC could prepare for this role; progressing the debate from whether and why the council should act on climate insecurity, to how? Scholars, activists, and policy makers will find this book a fertile source of innovative thinking and an invaluable basis on which to develop policy.
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Chapter 2: Climate change as a ‘threat to international peace and security’

Christopher K. Penny


This chapter asks whether climate change could be addressed within the Chapter VII remedial authority of the Security Council. In particular, it examines the threshold legal question of whether climate change could be considered a ‘threat to international peace and security’. Following a brief introduction, the second section of this chapter provides a brief overview of the decision-making processes and legal authority of the Council, highlighting its ‘primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security’. The third section then reviews its limited efforts to address climate change, up to late 2016, including the notable absence of any Council characterization of this phenomenon as an international security threat. Despite this Council reluctance, the fourth section demonstrates that climate change does pose significant security challenges for various states and for the international community as a whole. The fifth section illustrates that addressing climate change would therefore fall squarely within existing Council legal authority, particularly when considered in the light of its own prior practice. Should it decide to do so, there is no question that the Security Council could characterize and act to address climate change as a ‘threat to international peace and security’.

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