Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Security in the Context of Terrorism and Climate Change

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 9, 2021


Thank you so much, President Bazoum, for convening today’s meeting, and I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank you for hosting the Security Council in October. The hospitality that you and your team provided to us there was very much appreciated. The United States commends Niger for its leadership in keeping this important topic ­– the implication of climate change on international peace and security – on the Security Council’s agenda. I’d like to thank the Secretary-General for his briefing this morning and also thank Chairman Faki and Executive Secretary Nuhu for the important information and perspectives you have provided the Council today.

Climate change is a challenge for every person, in every nation, on every continent. The climate crisis is a security crisis. It is a threat to international peace. And therefore, it is a threat and a crisis that this body needs to address. Only the Security Council can ensure that the security impacts of climate change are integrated into the critical work of conflict prevention and mitigation, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, disaster reduction, and humanitarian response. It is the responsibility of the Security Council to ensure that it, and through it the UN Secretariat, has the tools and data necessary to confront one of this century’s greatest and fastest-growing threats to peace and security.

As we all know, unpredictable and extreme weather makes vital resources, like food and water, even more scarce in impoverished regions. Scarcity spurs desperation, and desperation leads to violence. The logic is clear – and so is the intelligence. Earlier this year, President Biden commissioned the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate – the most comprehensive intelligence product we have in the U.S. government – on the security implications of the climate crisis.

In October, the Director of National Intelligence released an unclassified version of the report, to ensure as many people as possible could get a better sense of what the world is facing. The report made its points very clearly: Climate change will increase instability and internal conflict. What’s more, at its current pace, the climate crisis is set to drive millions from their homes, propelling mass migration. Not only is that a human catastrophe, but these are the exact kinds of vulnerable populations terrorist organizations prey upon. Violent, extremist groups exploit weak governance, systemic corruption, and societal fractures to embed themselves in communities and develop sources of income. Climate change could exacerbate these challenges and provide openings for these terrorist organizations. In addition, violent extremist organizations may target critical infrastructure and aid workers, thereby undermining activities intended to mitigate the impact of climate disasters.

Fortunately, the Security Council – clearly recognizing the link between climate change and conflict – has taken necessary action in some of these cases. But the time for half-measures is over. The truth is, this global crisis requires a global response by the entire international community. We saw important progress at the 26th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including national and international commitments to keep within reach a 1.5-degree Celsius limit on global warming. Now, we need to do more – and we need to do it fast.

For our part, the United States will continue to work with all countries under the Paris Agreement and through the annual UNFCCC Conference of the Parties to advance global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To lead by example, President Biden announced the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, or PREPARE, in order to support developing countries in adapting and managing the impacts of climate change. The President will work with Congress to provide $3 billion in adaptation finance annually to PREPARE by 2024. Through PREPARE, the United States will urgently and significantly bolster adaptation efforts to save lives and reduce instability across the world. The goal is to ensure that we’re not only writing a check – we’re also working with countries to ensure that every dollar goes as far in those communities as possible.

Mr. President, it is time for us to stop debating whether the climate crisis presents a threat to international peace and security. That debate is over. The impact on the continent of Africa is clear. The deep and serious link between the climate crisis and our collective security is also clear. Now, it’s time for the Security Council to use our unique powers to address this issue head on. We must take action and instead start asking ourselves what we need to do – not whether, but what. We need to take that action now.

To that end, we strongly encourage all Members to support and co-sponsor the draft resolution on climate and security that Niger and Ireland have put forward and that the United States is proud to co-sponsor. That draft resolution is a good first step to real action on the security impacts of the climate crisis. It is the least we can do.

Mr. President, thank you again for raising this important issue today during Niger’s last month on the Security Council. The United States will work with other Council members to carry your hard work forward in the months and years to come.

Thank you very much.