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Lindsay Getschel is a Research Assistant with the Environmental Security program at the Stimson Center and she recently had the opportunity to address the UN Security Council on issues of climate change and youth representation in global decisionmaking.
ODP: Your policy research at the Stimson Center focuses on the interconnection between climate change and global security yet many people might not be aware that the two are intrinsically linked. Leading up to 2020 what do you see as the biggest risk climate change is posing to global peace and security?
LG: There is not just one single risk posed by climate but rather it is climate change’s impact on almost every level of national and local security and across economic sectors that presents the biggest risk. It will impact military bases; it will impact low-income communities; it will contribute to displacement; it will decrease food security as agricultural production and fisheries decline; it will threaten economic security and stability as droughts and increased storms destroy vital infrastructure and reduce productivity. The cumulative impact of all of these factors makes climate change a global threat multiplier that exacerbates insecurities, strains conflict-vulnerable communities, and leads to a world that is less secure and less stable. The Stimson Center is examining these cumulative security impacts in a project focusing on coastal urban centers in the Caribbean and East Africa.
ODP: Recently you had the opportunity to speak to the UN Security Council and urged them to adopt a resolution officially recognizing climate change as a threat to international peace and security. What kind of reception did you receive?
LG: There were many countries that were very receptive to my briefing and my recommendations. came with three recommendations:
The Security Council should adopt a resolution that formally recognizes climate change as a threat to international peace and security and incorporate climate change assessments into the mandates of all deployed missions.
Deployed missions should assess how climate change will impact local youth and how youth can be involved in building resilience and sustainability.
Based on research at Stimson on the need for peacekeeping missions to transition to clean energy in the field, the UNSC should commit to transition to 50% of its energy in deployed missions to come from renewable source by 2025.
Several countries, particularly the UK, were very enthusiastic about continuing to involve young people in this discussion both at the UN and in other global forums. There were also many countries that agreed with my recommendations to conduct assessments on how climate change is impacting conflict and security situations, the security of young people, and the ability of deployed missions to carry out their mandates. However, there remained countries, such as Russia, Brazil, and others, that still argue that climate change and its impacts on security does not fall under the mandate or purview of the Security Council.
ODP: The UN specifically has a Youth2030 initiative that seeks to empower young people around the world to become agents of change. When it comes to climate change action specifically, why do you think it’s important to have young people present in the decision-making process?
LG: Young people need to be included in discussions and decision-making on climate action because we, and the generations that come after us, are the ones that will have to live with the long-term effects climate change. We need to have young people at the table to remind them of the urgency of addressing climate change and the long-term impacts that it will have generations into the future. We also need to engage youth on finding solutions to climate change and its impacts. Hopefully, the Youth2030 Initiative will be able to act as a platform where young people can share their ideas and find support for their solutions.
ODP: From your experience, how are young people participating in the fight for global climate action in developing nations? We hear a lot about the great advocacy American and European youth have been up to but we don’t often get to hear the perspectives of young people from other parts of the world when it comes to these issues.
LG: In developing countries and countries hit hardest by climate change, young people are already living with and experiencing the impacts of climate change. Young people are also more vulnerable to the security impacts of climate through displacement, unemployment, food insecurity, and recruitment into armed groups. This has caused not only a surge of young people calling for action but also young people developing and implementing their own solutions to the climate impacts they are experiencing. As just one example, in St Lucia, a young man named Johanan Dujon saw how increased blooms of seaweed, which are becoming more frequent as oceans warm, damaged the local fishing community. He created a business that harvests the seaweed and converts it into a plant fertilizer, thereby building resilience in the local fishing and agriculture communities. This innovation by young people needs to be fostered throughout the world, especially to address local climate impacts. Also, today people from 112 countries have pledged to strike for climate change, so participation in this collective call to action is not limited to the US or Europe but it has spread all over the world.
ODP: What would be your advice for young people who want to get involved in climate issues and help create change but may not know where to start/what classes to take?
LG: Climate change intersects a wide range of study areas such as, economics, science, development, security, or politics, so no matter your major or career-focus there are always avenues that you can bring in climate issues. If you’re in school studying and are interested climate, my advice is to be proactive bringing climate into your independent research (e.g. your thesis or dissertation). Also, don’t be afraid to share your voice and join the debate; there are countless people, from all age groups and countries, that care about combatting climate change and want to take action.
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