Common law students called for the appointment of UN High Commissioner and the establishment of a UN Commission on Climate Change

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Climate change

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

In a simulated meeting of the UN Security Council, convened on 13 November 2023, 23 Common Law students adopted a resolution calling for the appointment of a United Nations High Commissioner on Climate Change (UNHCCC) and the establishment of a United Nations Climate Change Commission (UNCCC).

In the discussions leading to the adoption of Security Council resolution S/Res/2702 (2023), students considered two key questions. First, whether climate change raises any threat to international peace and security, requiring the Security Council’s intervention. They arrived at the conclusion that the climate change poses the existential threat to the mankind, “which manifests itself in various catastrophes such as flood, famine, earthquakes, global heating.” 

Second, on the degree of intervention by the Council, due to the complexity and multifaceted nature of climate change, the students adopted a cautious approach. They emphasized on existing international agreements relating to climate change, including the United Nations Framework Convention on the Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Paris Agreement of 2016, and called upon their parties to fulfill their obligations fully. Moreover, two commitments emanating from these agreements were highlighted in the resolution. They are, “common but differentiated responsibility” of all states with respect to climate change, and correlation between development and climate change.   

In this regard, the resolution called upon developed countries to “fulfill their obligation to provide financial resources, tech transfers and other assistance to developing countries in order to support sustainable development and global cooperation”. (para. 8) It also called upon “multilateral development banks and other financial institutions to enhance finance mobilization in order to deliver the scale of resources needed to achieve climate plans, particularly for adaptation.” (para 12) 

Threats posed by rising sea-levels to Small Island and Coastal States was underlined in the resolution. These threats included but not limited to the loss of sovereignty over their maritime waters, loss of Statehood and damage to their critical infrastructure. The resolution affirmed “that no impacted State will lose its Statehood as a result of rising sea-levels and coastal erosion.” (Para. 4) 

Furthermore, the resolutions invited “member states to accelerate their transition into the renewable energy sector to adequately sustain development while meeting climate related commitments’ (para. 14) 

As this was the first resolution adopted on climate change, the Council did not establish any subsidiary body to oversee climate change activities of the United Nations. Instead, it called upon “the Secretary-General to consider the appointment of a United Nations High Commissioner for Climate Change to ensures that support is given to all projects, activities, organs, and bodies that are active in the area of climate change and requests him to submit a report on the modalities of such an appointment within six months.” (para 18) 


Additionally, the Council Called upon “the General Assembly to consider the creation of a United Nations Commission on Climate Change, with the mandate of addressing all facets of the climate-security nexus and coordinating climate finance activities and technology development and transfer initiatives.” (para 19) 

In preparation for the simulative meeting, the students were trained for two months in the Law of International Organizations class to prepare draft resolutions and to negotiate. Each student was assigned to represent a member of the Security Council, as well as other states interested in the topic. All students prepared a draft resolution and negotiated their draft in three groups: Western and Other States Group (WEOG), Developing States Group and China and the Russian Federation Group. Each group came up with a single draft resolution which was the subject of further negotiations in groups meeting leading to the preparation of a consolidated draft resolution which was adopted by the simulative Security Council meeting.   

This simulated meeting was the seventh event organized by Dr. Mirzaei Yengejeh in his seminar of the Law of International Organizations. Previous simulated meetings of the Security Council were organized in January 2018 (on the situation in North Korea), fall 2018 (on the situation in Yemen), fall 2019 (on the negotiation between Iran and p5+1 over Iranian nuclear energy program), fall 2020 (on QOVID 19 Pandemic), fall 2021 (on the situation in Afghanistan) and fall 2022 on the armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.  

This practice-oriented seminar provides a unique opportunity for students to learn how the UN system works and gives them a chance to learn to practice as delegates, including preparing draft resolutions, negotiation, and decision-making in the UN organs. It is an invaluable experience for students interested in international law.  

This practice-oriented approach will be followed in the “Seminar on Documenting UN Practice", CML 4108 and DCL 6121, which will be taught for the 14th consecutive year in the January-Winter 2024 session. Registration for this seminar is now open for graduate and upper year students. Interested students must submit their applications, together with their CVs to Professor Saeid Mirzaei Yengejeh (mailto:[email protected]). 

Dr. Mirzaei has over 30 years of experience at the United Nations, both as an international civil servant and a governmental representative. He has been teaching at the Law Faculty since 2010.