Taoiseach denies UN Security Council climate change resolution is doomed

Russia and China express strong opposition to Ireland’s proposal to extend remit

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has addressed the United Nations Security Council, becoming the first Irish leader to do so, and warned that climate change is "the defining challenge of our generation." Video: UN TV

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has insisted there was “very strong support” for Ireland’s efforts on a United Nations resolution that would see the threat posed by climate change added to the Security Council’s routine agenda.

Speaking to reporters Mr Martin denied the efforts were doomed, despite two of the Security Council’s permanent members Russia and China - who have a veto on decisions - expressing strong opposition to the proposal to extend the council’s remit.

In an address to the Security Council in New York Mr Martin said: “The impact of climate change is global and our collective security is at risk.”

Ireland is urging world powers to take action aimed at preventing conflict posed by climate change by making the issue a permanent fixture on the Security Council’s agenda.

Mr Martin was chairing a Security Council meeting on the topic as part of Ireland’s presidency of the top table of international diplomacy.

Mr Martin was asked afterwards if Ireland’s hope to secure a resolution on the issue is doomed. He replied “no” and insisted there was “very strong support” for Ireland’s proposals among Security Council members.

He said “not everybody is of the same view” and Ireland will engage with members “in good faith”.

Mr Martin said: “We will try to pursuade people to in what in our opinion is an obvious link now between climate and security.”

Earlier Mr Martin told the Security Council “the impact of climate change is global and our collective security is at risk”.

He said the council “can and must do more” on the issue of climate change and security.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres thanked the Irish presidency for organising what he said is a “timely debate”.

He said the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was “deeply alarming” and is a “code red for humanity”.

Mr Guterres said it is clear that environmental mismanagement is a “risk multiplier” amid shrinking resources in impacted regions where “grievances and tensions can explode complicating efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace”.

Mr Guterres said 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 to help limit warming to 1.5 degrees to avert the most devastating effects of climate change.

Opposition

Russia, China and India all expressed opposition to climate change becoming part of the Security Council’s agenda.

The Russian representative said his country “wholeheartedly” agrees with calls for action on climate change but disagreed with the Security Council getting involved.

He said: “There is a Russian saying that illustrates this: too many cooks spoil the broth.

“I will be frank, we believe that the insistent and persistent attempts to, at all costs, advance at the Security Council agenda the premise of climate change as a threat to international peace and security introduces a completely unnecessary political component to an already complicated and sensitive discussion.”

He suggested: “Perhaps our colleagues, by involving the Security Council, simply wish to raise the profile of the climate discussion.

“However, I think you would agree that the inclusion or non inclusion of any theme or problem on the Security Council’s agenda should not be a gauge of its importance or relevance.”

He suggested including climate change on the Security Council agenda would not be of benefit to the issue.

China representative Zhang Jun said the relationship between climate and security “is very complex” and argued that it should not form part of the Security Council’s mandate.

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.

China does not believe the council “has the necessary specialised knowledge mechanisms or tools” to address the issue.

India’s representative Reenat Sandhu argued that there are already forums for “holistically” addressing climate change citing the Paris Accords and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

She said: “The measures to tackle climate change has been built on an integrated structure so that it is equitable to all parties especially developing countries.

“Therefore addressing one aspect of climate change while ignoring others will be counterproductive.”

She said the Security Council is “not there to tackle a multi-faceted problem of this nature not be desirable.”

Ms Sandhu added: “Bringing climate security into the Security Council discourse, disregarding basic principles and practices relating to climate change, has the potential to disrupt our overall discussion on this extremely important topic.”

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s contribution was supportive of the Irish message.

He thanked the Taoiseach for putting the connection between climate and security on the Security Council agenda.

Mr Blinken said addressing the climate crisis is a top priority for President Joe Biden’s administration.

He said the that New York was recently hit by a “punishing storm” caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida which killed dozens of people including a two-year old boy.

He said: “look at any one of our countries - you will see record breaking extreme weather like this... the climate crisis isn’t coming it’s already here.”

Mr Blinken said that agreeing the issue of climate change belongs at the security council 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. She 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”.

In his address Mr Martin said: “Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation” and the IPCC report “laid out, in stark terms, what is happening to our planet, and what the future may hold should we fail to act”.

“It is essential that we act now to prevent further warming by reaching net zero emissions as quickly as possible, and we must redouble our efforts to ensure a successful outcome at COP26 in Glasgow later this year.”

Mr Martin said: “A concerted multilateral response to climate change involving all the organs of the UN is urgently needed. That response must include this council.

“The impact of climate change is global and our collective security is at risk.”

The Taoiseach said climate change is already contributing to conflict in many parts of the world.

Mr Martin listed places from the Sahel to Iraq, the region around Lake Chad and the Horn of Africa as locations where climate change is driving conflict and violence.

He said: “The need for action is clear. Eighty per cent of UN peacekeepers are deployed in countries that are the most exposed to climate change.“The mandate of this Council is to consider threats to international peace and security.

“We must move past theoretical debates and respond to the reality that climate change is exacerbating conflict globally.

“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,” he said.

Mr Martin said he knows there are “differing perspectives around this table”.

“But I also believe the time has come for this council to work together to identify how we can most appropriately integrate climate related security risks into the work we do to prevent conflict and to build peace.”

He said the secretary-general should be invited to to submit a periodic report to the Security Council on how climate change is threatening the maintenance of international peace and security.

The appointment by the secretary general of a special representative for climate-related security risks “could also build awareness and promote greater coherence”.

Mr Martin said: “These actions are just the beginning of what is necessary for the council to begin to fulfil its obligations.

“To take these proposals forward, Ireland will convene discussion on a thematic resolution on climate and security in the coming days. I ask today that all members of the council engage constructively on this resolution.”