05 Dec 2015 Speech Climate change

"Planetary security in a Topsy Turvy World"

Excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen, let me start by thanking my fellow speakers this morning, for giving us all some food for thought and The Netherlands, for hosting us. If you have seen the painting "Netherlandish Proverbs," you will know why they are the perfect hosts for this event.

Painted at a time of incredible change across Europe, it illustrates over a hundred proverbs that cover anything life could throw at you. Given that the painting is also known as "The Topsy Turvy World," I think it also illustrates the vast array of inter related challenges we face in delivering security on a rapidly evolving planet - where the population is heading to 9 billion people with different needs, hopes and fears; where the fate of those people rests on delivering our commitments to climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction; and where success in delivering those commitments rests on our ability to tackle tough subjects at events like this and the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul next year.

Because, while climate change alone does not normally cause conflict, it does serve as a threat multiplier; adding stress that could destabilize already-vulnerable communities, ecosystems and states. That is why the need for an integrated approach that connects climate, environment, development and security was highlighted by Minister Koenders at the Conference on Planetary Security.

And it is why there were such strong words from Pope Francis during his visit to our headquarters in Nairobi, when he underscored the need for a common effort to tackle climate change and the need to protect the fundamental rights of the poor, who inevitably pay the highest cost in terms of conflict, injustice, inequality and exclusion. Such calls echo lessons from the Millennium Development Goals and provide a stark reminder that unless we tackle the multiple drivers of conflict, development progress will be halted and in some cases reversed.

Both the Planetary Security Conference and the recent G7 report on A New Climate for Peace highlight some of the risks to be found at that intersection between climate change and security, and some of the potential solutions for dealing with them. There are many, but I want to touch on just three of them today.

First, as the risk from climate change grows, so too does the risk of pressure on natural resources leading to instability and conflict. In fact, in the past 60 years, at least 40 per cent of inter-state conflicts were linked to natural resources and were more likely to relapse within five years of a peace agreement. For example, in a 2011 report on "Livelihood Security in the Sahel," UNEP and its partners showed how the impact of climate change on the availability of natural resources, combined with population growth and weak governance, has already led to intense competition. In many cases this is mixing with other political factors and historical grievances to create a deadly cocktail of violence and conflict.

Second, such increases in livelihood insecurity can push people to migrate. Drought and desertification, heat waves, rising sea levels, natural disasters and competition for resources are all likely to affect migration in different ways. Again, this is already visible in migration patterns in the Sahel, where changing rainfall patterns and seasonal droughts are combining with some of the other factors I just mentioned. However - with the largest human migration in history already underway and with the IPCC predicting that climate mobility will become a defining humanitarian and development issue - these issues require a focused response that is equally sensitive to climate, security and people.

And third, both of those issues could feel the impact of the expected increase in extreme weather events and disasters, which will require a concerted response by the international community. It might only be the biggest incidents or the most developed cities that hit the headlines, but a recent UNISDR report shows that weather-related disasters occurred almost daily over the last decade and flood and heat-wave frequency almost doubled over the last two decades - killing over 600,000 people. Degraded ecosystems increase the level of vulnerability. We've seen this in Haiti, where the loss of some 96 per cent of forest cover exposed the country to a greater number of - and impact from - natural disasters such as the landslides and floods caused by heavy storms.

It is worth noting that all three of these issues pose specific risks for UN peacekeeping operations. UNEP's analysis of 40 operations in the last 30 years showed that 93 per cent occurred in countries affected by disasters relating to environmental and climatic conditions. Conversely, building trust and sustaining peace can help reduce disaster risk and climate vulnerability. For example, in Ethiopia, relief organizations found that drought-affected communities who benefited from peace building initiatives were better able to cope with drought than others.

So, as conflict, migration and the scale of natural disasters grow, peacekeeping operations will need contingency plans and capable resources in equal measure. This is a crucial point because security, safety and respect for human rights and the rule of law are the key principles of United Nations. That was the case 70 years ago and, however much the world has changed, that is unchanged.

Sadly, not everyone adheres to the same basic principles of human decency. One of the lowest forms of attack is the illegal exploitation of natural resources that deprives the poorest countries of revenues that could pay for schools, healthcare or infrastructure, but are instead used to prolong conflicts that service the interest of the traffickers. We have seen this in 18 violent conflicts in just the last 25 years.

Ladies and gentlemen, this isn't about a few poachers trying to scratch out a living. This is about organized crime that costs the weakest economies over $200 billion per year - more than one and a half times the total official development assistance being funded by taxpayers around the world.

Natural resources should be a blessing. In some areas they provide a sound vehicle for development and cooperation. For example, shared water systems in areas like the Indus River and Nile Basin have been addressed by cooperation rather than conflict. However, that is not the case everywhere. The World Bank found that developing countries without shared water systems grew two to three times faster, while those dependent on them were ten times more likely to experience civil war.

This phenomenon has been called the "resource curse," but could equally be called a "governance curse". Yet, work with UNEP's partners in East Africa and Papua New Guinea shows that sustainable natural resource management and governance can strengthen peace-building outcomes by enhancing the engagement and the empowerment of women in conflict situations. So, instead of being a root cause of conflict, this can be a source of opportunity if we can help these areas to open access to land tenure, build resilient infrastructure, promote diverse livelihoods and ensure equitable resource management.

And "we" is the crucial word here. If ever something demanded the absolute need for human solidarity across borders, then it is climate change. It underpins every element of peace, prosperity and progress. In other words, reaching an agreement at COP is crucial, but what really counts is our ability to deliver on it once the headlines have died down.

That has to start with the collection of more long-term research to unpack the role of climate, environment and natural resources in violent conflict. And it must feed into the creation of shared strategy, which takes a holistic approach to mitigating these risks and which is driven by sound, evidence-based policies.

That is why UNEP and the European Union are launching a new initiative on Climate Change and Security next Friday in the German Pavilion. I won't go into all the details now, but I can tell you that it will focus on the potentially destabilizing impact of climate change on fragile states and it will pilot practical measures for communities to build climate resilience.

And, like most problems created by people in this "Topsy Turvy World," natural resources hold the answers we are looking for. We have every reason to believe that solidarity and strategy can turn the risks to security and safety into opportunities for inclusive, peaceful and sustainable development - globally, regionally, nationally and locally.

Thank you.