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    The United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial event is taking place in Acrra, Ghana on 5-6 December 2023. Photo: Stephanie Lemesianou

“Responsibility, ambition and legacy” promoted as environmental management priorities at 2023 UN Peacekeeping Ministerial

As climate change continues to fuel catastrophic conflict in fragile environments around the world, there are calls for new partnerships to transform the environmental footprint of peacekeeping operations through new technologies and renewable energy solutions.

Speaking at a side-event hosted by the United States at the United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial in Ghana, the Under-Secretary General for Operational Support, Atul Khare said the environmental management of peacekeeping operations had improved since a strategy was launched in 2017. For example, the proportion of waste treated through recycling, composting and incineration has increased from 19 to 65 percent and diesel consumption has gone down in real terms by 15 million liters a year.

“Transitioning to renewable energy helps to protect peacekeepers by reducing the need to transport fuel on dangerous roads and increases operational resilience to withstand fuel shortages, to a certain degree,” said Mr. Khare.

Looking forward, he said the focus for peacekeeping is three-fold. Responsibility: continuing to do no harm. Ambition: setting performance targets to advance the environmental agenda within realistic timeframes. Legacy: working with host, Troop and Police Contributing Countries to leave a positive impact on local populations.

“We know that preserving peace and protecting our planet go hand in hand. Climate change exacerbates armed conflict and then war wreaks havoc on the environment,” said United States Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, while launching the event. “But there is another factor at play and that’s the environmental impact of peacekeeping itself.”

Peacekeeping is responsible for most of the UN Secretariat’s carbon footprint. But, by switching to green energy, missions can reduce the strain on host countries and strengthen relationships with local communities by leaving behind important infrastructure.

“In other words, cleaner and greener missions can help protect peacekeepers and help promote peace around the world,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

Ministers and delegates from more than 85 countries and international organizations have gathered in Accra for the high-level event to express their political commitment to UN Peacekeeping and make concrete pledges to strengthen its effectiveness.

Climate change is a critical issue in the environments in which peacekeeping operates, with competition for access to already scarce natural resources increasing tensions, provoking conflict, and exacerbating dire humanitarian situations.

The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. A.K Abdul Momen said climate change is the world’s number one challenge and environmental management must, therefore, be an integral part of peacekeeping.

“It is important that missions reduce dependency on conventional sources of energy and shift towards renewable energy. This can substantially cut the carbon footprint, reduce risks to peacekeepers, and ensure that communities benefit from best practices in environmental management.”

Participants at the side-event acknowledged the significant practical and financial challenges in transitioning equipment used by peacekeeping to renewable energy sources, which is essential to meeting climate targets. They issued a collective call for new partnerships to forge a future where all peace operations are green operations.