How climate change can affect international peace and security?

This commentary is written by Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi, president of the Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise and published by Apolitical on September 06, 2021

The problem: Climate change is a global problem.

Why it matters: Solving it is vital for the future of our planet.

The solution: Working together across borders is one path to tackle large issues.

Climate change, sustainable development and international peace and security are the most preoccupations of the international community in recent years. The emphasis on climate change’s security and development implications contributes to bringing climate change into the complex field of international law and politics.

Security and development implications of climate change in the world aim to rethink and better understand the existence and nature of their links. In this perspective, a comprehensive approach is required to analyse climate change, sustainable development and peace and security.

Sustainable development offers opportunities to build more equitable, resilient and peaceful societies based on the rights of current and future generations.

The risks associated with climate change on international peace and security are generally accepted by numerous researchers. In the same perspective, sustainable development is a millstone of environmental protection worldwide. As a result, climate change is a danger for sustainable development and international peace and security. In fact, climate change exacerbates existing risks to sustainable development and could affect international peace and security.

Climate change’s existing impact

Climate change is already causing considerable damage in the world, including population displacement across the planet. Some people have been forced to relocate, with dire consequences for their livelihoods, culture and heritage. Forced displacement of more people will increase the risk of international conflict and insecurity in the world. In addition, the fight against climate change must be carried out with sustainable development legal instruments such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Sustainable Development Goals are the legal instrument to ensure resilience, mitigation and adaptation to climate change and peace and security.

Moreover, climate change is, in essence, a question of sustainable development. It is the key to solve most environmental problems. In this context, the integration between climate changes, economic and social development, economic growth, poverty reduction, job creation, wealth promotion and ecological conservation is crucial to establish peace and security in the world.

International collaboration is required

Environmental problems and ecological concerns in the contemporary world are among the most urgent requiring an immediate international collective response from the international community, collectively or individually. Since the environment is a transboundary issue, a single country’s effort is not enough, but all countries must collaborate on this complex issue. As we all live together on this planet, the best way is to implement international environmental law at the national and international levels.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has already caused unimaginable devastation and hardship to the world, has proven the inefficiency of the contemporary approach of international law. Covid-19 has raised many questions and doubts about the principles and the formation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the statute of the International Court of Justice.

Moreover, the UN has failed to achieve its objectives and purposes as defined in the Charter. The issues such as non-respect to human rights, environmental degradation, the composition of the Security Council, implementation of the right veto are only some examples of the functional challenges and problems in the system of the UN.

Keeping sustainability front of mind

Regarding international peace and security, it is not related only to the non-use of force in international relations but also related to preventing and combating poverty, food insecurity and immigration and displacement caused by climate change. In this regard, the United Nations Security Council is not dealing only with the imminent threats to international peace and security, such as traditional threats arising from wars and conflicts, but also new threats to the planet such as climate change, epidemics and poverty.

For this reason, dealing with global challenges requires global solutions and international cooperation in a sustainable manner. Therefore, the Security Council must integrate climate-related security risks and environmental degradation as a mission for the maintenance of international peace and security. However, the current composition of the Security Council, unchanged since World War II, no longer reflects contemporary international society. As a result, the international community is required to reform the UN Security Council for the post-Covid-19 World.

In conclusion, failure to consider the interrelationship between climate change, sustainable development, and international peace and security would undermine global efforts to protect the planet and prevent conflict and sustainable development goals, specifically in vulnerable countries.

Moreover, the interdependence approach requires implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change 2015, and international legal instruments such as the principle of non-use of force in international relations. On the one hand, environmental degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss could clearly affect international peace and security. But, on the other hand, sustainable development offers opportunities to build more equitable, resilient and peaceful societies based on the rights of current and future generations.  

Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi is an expert in international law. He is the President of the Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE). His teaching and research interests are in the areas of Public International Law, International Criminal Law, and International Environmental Law. He has published many books and articles in each of these areas. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the CIFILE Journal of International Law (CJIL), Canada.


Suggested citation: Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi, How climate change can affect international peace and security?, Apolitical – Professional Commentary, September 06, 2021,