Higgins urges US to review withdrawal from Paris climate accord

During US visit, President says climate change the most pressing issue facing world

President Michael D Higgins expressed his “profound disappointment” at the US decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

President Michael D Higgins expressed his “profound disappointment” at the US decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

President Michael D Higgins has urged the United States to revisit its decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.

Speaking ahead of an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday night, Mr Higgins said climate change was the most pressing issue facing the global community.

“Failure to take radical, urgent action in relation to climate change that will effectively subject future generations to an existence of threat in an ever more bleak and volatile planet, and in human terms one that is likely to lead to the forced displacement of millions of people including those at the front line in small island developing countries.”

In a speech delivered at New York University on Tuesday evening, Mr Higgins expressed his “profound disappointment” at the US decision to exit the landmark Paris accord.

“I do urge the United States government to revisit and reconsider this decision to exit the Paris agreement, a decision which could take effect from November next year,” he said.

“Unless we collectively take action to prevent catastrophic climate change, together with a real commitment and transfer of resources towards assisting communities to prepare for, and adapt to, changing climates, these population flows, driven by climate shifts, will take place in a context of old revived and emerging new conflicts becoming available to be exploited by extremists,” he said.

Multilateralism

Mr Higgins was due to outline Ireland’s support for the UN and the principles of multilateralism in his speech to the general assembly.

In particular, he was expected to highlight the way in which multilateralism allows the world to develop mechanisms for conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building, as well as warn that the international order “is now again under grave pressure”.

Ireland’s experience in conflict resolution was also expected to be a theme of his address, with the President due to note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “resonates deeply with the Irish people”.

“We have a deep sense, from our own experiences, of the centrality of national identity and a sense of belonging, and how this persists through decades and centuries,” he was expected to say, noting that peace processes needed to find a way for different identities and narratives to co-exist and no longer have to compete in a “zero-sum game”.

Earlier, the President said he believed Ireland had a “good case to make” for securing a seat on the UN Security Council in 2021 and 2022.

Noting that much of the decision-making is made by the five big members of the Security Council, he noted that small countries have historically been able to effect change on the council. Highlighting the fact that about 100 of the UN member states have populations the same or less than Ireland he said: “They are actually the ones who speak on issues like proliferation, cluster bombs, disarmament and climate change.”