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The United Nations Security Council and climate change: Challenges and opportunities

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The concept of climate change as a security threat is not new, and the idea of using the UN Security Council to combat this threat has long since been mooted by academic scholars. Yet in recent years a growing sense of urgency has led to an increased tendency to view the prospect in substantive terms. Despite the growing literature on the topic, however, the question of what measures would be open to and feasible for the Security Council to take were it to seek to engage in the climate change problematique remains underexplored. This paper seeks to begin to address this gap by analysing the core legal and practical issues surrounding the potential for Council action in three key areas: the creation of climate mitigation obligations; the avoidance of existing commitments which risk posing a “regulatory chill” on climate measures; and the enforcement of conventional commitments. In this way, it aims to facilitate a more nuanced understanding of the Council’s potential role in this area which can be applied to a variety of eventualities and as a variably proportioned element of the broader international framework.


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