Delegation of the European Union to The Gambia

EU Statement – United Nations Security Council: Arria-formula meeting on Sea-Level Rise and Implications for International Peace and Security

New York, 18/10/2021 - 21:47, UNIQUE ID: 211018_18
Statements on behalf of the EU

18 October 2021, New York - Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States delivered by Ms. Natacha Tolstoi, Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on Sea-Level Rise and Implications for International Peace and Security


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Mr President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

We thank the Presidency and organizers for holding this important debate on the security implications of sea-level rise.

As mentioned in our statement at the Security Council debate on climate and security on 23 September, the EU and its member states were among the first to identify climate change as a security issue.

For more than a decade, we have considered climate change as an existential risk multiplier, to be put at the heart of EU security policy and the global agenda. Sea-level rise is a major consequence of climate change. While small islands developing states are among the least responsible yet most vulnerable - some of them even threatened in their very existence due to sea-level rise - the issue will directly or indirectly affect all countries. It is estimated that over 150 million people live on land that is less than 1 meter above high tide levels, including in Europe. Sea-level rise threatens many cities that have developed along coastlines and deltas all over the world, many of which are megacities and home to millions of people.

Slow-onset events such as sea-level rise exacerbate humanitarian crises and may push people to migrate, within their country or across borders. Flooding worsened by sea-level rise will affect the economy and impact essential services such as energy, water, transport, and health, and will severely harm coastal cultural assets of great historical value. It may result in the destruction of infrastructure and real-estate. Actions to prevent impacts and to repair damage will also be costly and place a heavy burden on countries.

The risks posed by sea level rise are closely linked with changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as storms and floods. The degradation of crucial protective ecosystems like coral reefs or mangroves reinforces the impacts of sea level rise. This further increases the security implications to the affected societies. While sea level rise occurs slowly over the years, extreme weather events have immediate consequences.

Sea-level rise will have political, economic, legal and security ramifications in numerous policy areas, and will likely be discussed regionally and globally in different international fora. The matter touches upon wide-ranging policy interests. Some of those will likely be conflicting.

Today’s discussion is needed and underlines the significance of this topic as well as the importance of the United Nations, including the Security Council, dealing more comprehensively with the interlinkages between climate change, environmental degradation and security.

We also need a dynamic international cooperation based on inclusive multilateralism to enhance the rules-based governance of the oceans under UNCLOS, which establishes the overarching legal framework within which all activities in oceans and seas must be carried out.

Without repeating our points made in the debate of 23 September, I would like to reiterate that the EU remains convinced that the Security Council should intensify and systematize its work on climate and security, and consider the passing of a thematic resolution on climate change and security.

We stand ready to support this work through multiple initiatives, with the Platform on Disaster Displacement just being the most recent one.

We also note the work currently being carried out by the International Law Commission, in the context of a Study Group on the topic of “Sea-level Rise in Relation to International Law”. We stand ready to support this process.”

The new EU Adaptation Strategy seeks to have adaptation that is swifter, smarter and more systemic. It contains a strong international dimension, in particular in terms of increasing support for international climate resilience and preparedness, scaling up international finance to build climate resilience and strengthening global engagement and exchanges. The Horizon Europe Missions and Partnerships will catalyse action and mobilise research and innovation to address knowledge gaps and roll out innovative solutions for increased climate resilience of coastal communities, sustainable coastal development; improved resilience and protection from sea level rise, floods and coastal erosion; renovation in coastal communities with green/blue port building, infrastructures, among others.


In closing, the European Union and its Member States would like to stress the importance of the ocean as our significant ‘ally’ in the fight against climate change, the importance of meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement, and the UN Decade of Oceans Science for Sustainable development if we are to prevent the worst impacts of sea level rise.


I thank you, Mr President.

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