On 20 July 2011 the United Nations (UN) Security Council (SC) held an open debate on the maintenance of international peace and security and the implications of climate change. The Security Council discussed how climate change augments existing threats to international peace and security. According to Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) climate change is a “threat multiplier”, meaning it has severe effects on weather, natural resources, settlements, infrastructure, food insecurity, livelihoods and development. During the debate, some 65 delegates discussed different ways of approaching the issue. Several delegates disagreed with the Security Council addressing the topic of climate change, stating it is an encroachment on other UN mandates, such as the General Assembly, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Control (UNFCCC), and the Economic and Social Council. While other delegates supported the Security Council's focus on climate change, and what the President of the Republic of Nauru called “the greatest security threat of our time”.
A gender dimension was seldom seen in the statements given by the speakers. Iceland and Finland both made statements highlighting the role of women in creating change and also being more vulnerable to displacement as a result of climate change. Iceland stated that the unbridled impact of climate change “magnified” existing inequalities in society, particularly noting women to be more vulnerable than men due to their role in society as head of the household where lack of access to resources, especially after natural disaster, is highly likely. Iceland also called on the SC to take a gender perspective in any response to climate change, to involve women in the debate, decision-making and implementation of any forthcoming action and, the critical need to uphold the principles mandated in WPS Resolution 1325 to promote gender equality worldwide.
According to Finland, while women are vulnerable during conflict and natural disasters, they are also agents for action against climate change, Iceland also agreed. Women are, as Finland stated, “the most powerful agents of change”. Finland has supported the Global Gender and Climate Alliance and the participation of women representatives in climate change negotiations for several years. The President of Nauru commended the UN for its efforts to recognize women, peace and security (WPS) issues however, he believed that climate change would be the most pertinent issue facing the world in the near future and that is needs to be addressed immediately.
UNEP, Secretary-General, Germany, United States, France, China, Russian Federation, Bosnia & Herzegovina, India, Gabon, Brazil, Colombia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, the Sudan, Turkey, the United Republic of Tanzania and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.