In a new working paper, Sabin Center intern Dane Warren examines the authority of the United Nations Security Council to address global climate change. The paper considers what actions the Security Council has taken with regard to climate change thus far, and what actions the Security Council could legally take going forward.
The author finds that the Security Council has thus far played a very minimal role in this area, but that it does have authority to address the security implications of global climate change. The U.N. Charter and the literature suggest that the Council could theoretically take two possible actions related to climate change: (1) handle discrete, traditional conflicts partially or wholly caused by climate change; (2) find that climate change represents a “threat to international peace and security”, placing the topic within the mandate of the Council, and employ its Chapter VI and VII powers to mitigate or adapt to climate change. This paper focuses primarily on the second, more controversial option, which could include the imposition of economic sanctions, the creation of a subsidiary climate change committee, and even the use of force.