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 10: Contested legitimacy: The UN Security Council and climate change

Martin Binder and Monika Heupel


In this chapter, we analyze the two open debates on climate change in the United Nations Security Council of 2007 and 2011 and show that the legitimacy of the Council addressing climate change is contested. Only a slight majority of all evaluative statements on the Council’s authority to address climate change are positive, while nearly as many are negative. When states ascribe legitimacy to the Security Council addressing climate change they primarily refer to the Council’s mandate, but also to the Council’s expertise in this matter and its authority derived from previous Council and General Assembly resolutions. States that deny Security Council legitimacy when it comes to dealing with climate change primarily hold that the Council’s mandate does not cover climate change, but also that the Council lacks expertise and representative decision-making rules. Based on these findings, we suggest that the Council, if it does address climate change, should opt, at least for the moment, for a modest approach, focusing on consent-based and comparably unintrusive measures.

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