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Threats to International Peace and Security: “Sea-Level Rise - Implications for International Peace and Security”

Tuesday, 14 February 2023
MR. ARIEL R. PEÑARANDA, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York
Security Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York


Thank you, Mr. President

As an archipelagic State with more than half of its cities and communities located along its coasts, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable to sea-level rise due to anthropogenic climate change. For the Philippines, the observed sea-level rise has been at 60 centimeters, about three times that of the global average.[1]

As previously raised in Council discussions, we underline the importance of not understating or overstating the impact of climate on conflict. The relationship between climate and conflict is not linear. It is complex, nuanced and context specific. In this regard, we emphasize that the forum for discussing climate change and international commitments to address the varied aspects of climate action is the UNFCCC.

The Philippines defines national security as “the state or condition wherein the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the people’s well-being, core values, and way of life, and the State and its institutions, are protected and enhanced.”  The impacts of sea-level rise threaten all these elements of security. These threaten the lives and livelihood of Filipinos, especially those in the coastal areas. It is therefore important that discussions on the implications of sea-level rise on peace and security be always people-centered.

The impact on statehood and security are far-reaching, with the loss of territory and displacement of populations and attendant tensions over access to resources, livelihoods, and services. Sea-level rise threatens the stability of boundaries. For the Philippines, we caution against inference in favor of ambulatory baselines, absent a showing of state practice and opinio juris on the matter. We are more inclined to subscribe to the principle of uti possidetis juris, which in the past allowed newly independent states to maintain their maritime borders. Uti possidetis juris espouses certainty, predictability and stability in boundaries; it will also serve to prevent conflict over boundaries.

We welcome the International Law Commission’s decision to work on three main issue areas related to sea-level rise: the law of the sea, forced migration and human rights; and issues of statehood and international security. Their work would hopefully introduce some certainty on the implications of the phenomenon to the international legal order.

Further, we hope that the UN, especially the Security Council, will take into account the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, including their projections and recommendations, as follows[2]:

  • Sea-level rise at the end of the century is projected to be faster under all scenarios;
  • Non-climatic anthropogenic drivers will continue to increase the exposure and vulnerability of coastal communities;
  • Sea-level rise will have serious impact on coastal ecosystems over the course of the century
  • Expected annual flood damages will increase by 2-3 orders of magnitude by 2100; and
  • Achieving the SDGs and charting Climate Resilient Development Pathways depends in part on ambitious and sustained mitigation efforts to contain sea-level rise coupled with effective adaptation actions to reduce its impacts and risk.

Mr. President,

The convergence of scientific opinion on our way forward should guide us in pursuing our common security agenda on the matter of sea-level rise.

Thank you.


[1] https://niccdies.climate.gov.ph/climate-change-impacts

[2] https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/chapter/chapter-4-sea-level-rise-and-implications-for-low-lying-islands-coasts-and-communities/