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Climate change, Global Greenhouse Gas emissions, Climate science, Non-traditional security threats, Health crisis, International governance tools, United Nations, Security Council, Small Island Developing States


This article argues that climate change’s destabilizing impacts require us to look at existing international governance tools at our disposal with fresh eyes. As such, Council climate action cannot and should not be dismissed out-of-hand. As conflicts rise, migration explodes, and nations are extinguished, how long can the Council remain on the climate sidelines? Hence, my call for a re-conceptualized “Council 3.0” to meet the climate security challenges this century.

This article proceeds as follows. In Part II, I describe and analyze the current state of climate science and the climate-security threats facing the world. This includes an analysis of the Council’s unique role and responsibility to maintain international peace and security within the U.N. Charter system. In Part III, I describe how the Council’s agenda has evolved in recent years to include a focus on non-traditional security threats to include climate change. In doing so, I offer a possible roadmap for Council climate action, showcasing how climate change’s existential threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of four Pacific Small Island Developing States (“SIDS”) will stress and test Council engagement on climate change. Part IV addresses the challenges and opportunities to Council climate action. Part V argues that the Council should use its authority under article 39 of the U.N. Charter to affirmatively declare climate change a threat to international peace and security. Doing so activates a series of measured, gradually escalating steps that the Council should take to address the growing international climate governance gap. Rather than dismissing Council climate involvement, I argue that we should adopt an “institutional risk allocation” approach where numerous institutions address climate change in a holistic, complementary way. This will require a rejuvenated and reimagined “Council 3.0” that requires a normative reconceptualization of the Council’s role in upholding peace and security. Part VI concludes.

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Michigan Journal of International Law


© 2021 Mark P. Nevitt.