‘Strong support’ for adding climate change to UN Security Council agenda - Taoiseach

Micheál Martin insists proposal not doomed despite opposition from Russia and China

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has denied that Ireland’s efforts to ensure the threat posed by climate change is added to the routine agenda of the United Nations Security Council is "doomed" due to opposition from Russia and China. Video: UN TV

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin has insisted there is “very strong support” for Ireland’s efforts to ensure the threat posed by climate change is added to the routine agenda of the United Nations Security Council.

Ireland wants a UN resolution to make the issue a permanent item for consideration at the top table of world diplomacy.

Mr Martin denied the proposal is doomed, despite two of the security council’s permanent members Russia and China – who have a veto – expressing strong opposition to extending the council’s remit.

“The impact of climate change is global and our collective security is at risk,” he said in his address to the UN in New York as part of Ireland’s presidency of the security council, adding that it “must do more” on the issue.

“We must move past theoretical debates and respond to the reality that climate change is exacerbating conflict globally,” he said. “This council can and must do more. It has the mandate and it has the tools. A failure to use them is an abdication of our responsibility.”

‘Deeply alarming’

Reporters asked Mr Martin afterwards if Ireland’s hope to secure a resolution on the issue is doomed given the position of Russia and China.

“No,” he replied, adding that while “not everybody is of the same view”, Ireland will engage with members “in good faith” as it seeks to persuade the sceptics of the need to address “an obvious link now between climate and security”.

At the UN meeting earlier, secretary general António Guterres said the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate change was “deeply alarming” and is a “code red for humanity”.

Mr Guterres said it is clear that environmental mismanagement is a “risk multiplier” and highlighted how more than 30 million people were displaced by climate disasters last year. He urged UN member states to be more ambitious in their targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Russia, China and India all expressed opposition to the Irish proposals.

The Russian representative Dmitry Polyanskiy said Moscow “wholeheartedly” agrees with calls for action on climate change but disagreed with the security council getting involved. “There is a Russian saying that illustrates this: too many cooks spoil the broth,” he said.

Mr Polyanskiy said Russia believes expanding the security council’s role “introduces a completely unnecessary political component to an already complicated and sensitive discussion”.

China representative Zhang Jun also argued that it should not form part of the security council’s mandate.

‘Counterproductive’

He said the Paris Agreement is the “most authoritative channel” for dealing with climate change and it would be “inappropriate” for the security council to replace this.

India’s representative Reenat Sandhu argued that there are already forums for “holistically” addressing climate change, citing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Addressing one aspect of climate change while ignoring others will be counterproductive,” she said.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken was supportive of the Irish proposals, saying that the security council taking on the issue would send a clear message to the international community of “the serious implications climate change has for our collective security.”

The security council heard from Somali peace activist Ilwad Elman, who said her Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre began working on climate change issues “because our lives and daily realities are at the nexus of climate change and security”.

Mr Martin hailed her contribution as illustrating the impact climate change is having on driving conflict in places like the Horn of Africa.

Mr Martin will deliver an address to the UN General Assembly on Friday.

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