UN Security Council divided on climate-security link

Diplomats gather for a United Nations Security Council meeting to address the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security. (AFP pic)

UNITED NATIONS: Russia and the US resisted on Friday efforts by the UN Security Council to take a tougher stand on climate change — a day after UN chief Antonio Guterres warned of a lack of political will to fight global warming.

More than 80 people including about 15 ministers — a record according to some diplomats — were expected to air their views at the Council debate about the impact of climate-related disasters on peace and security.

Such numbers “are very surprising,” an African ambassador said, while a French diplomat said it indicates “a large awareness” of the issue.

The debate came after Guterres, at the Davos World Economic Forum, demanded bolder action from governments to arrest runaway warming, which he called “the most important global systemic threat in relation to the global economy.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, however, told the Council it is “superfluous and even counter-productive to examine the climate problem at the UN Security Council whose principal task is to react rapidly to menaces to international peace and security.”

For Rosemary DiCarlo, an American serving as the UN’s Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, “addressing the security implications of climate change is a collective problem, which requires a collective response.”

A US silence

Nebenzia agreed regional cooperation should be developed and climate risks taken into account, “but not in a generic way.”

Many participants detailed negative consequences of global warming on world peace — through flooding, drought, fires and migration — and also appealed at the same time for tougher action.

Some sought the adoption of specific resolutions on the link between peace and climate, but such an outcome is unlikely in the short-term because of the position of Russia — and the United States.

In its submission, the US did not once refer to climate change, and Washington confined itself to underlining the importance of better managing natural disasters.

It also called on United Nations agencies to better share information.

US President Donald Trump has long said he distrusts the consensus by nearly all the world’s respected climate scientists on the link between human activity and rising temperatures.

He has pulled his country out of the international Paris Agreement on bringing down global temperatures.

“In each debate, it’s necessary to integrate a reflection, an analysis on climate change,” said Didier Reynders, Belgium’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“Our Russian colleagues are going to have to get used to this element being under consideration at the Security Council table. If one wants to go further, on resolutions specifically bearing on the climate-security link, there is a lot of work to do. It’s more complicated to obtain when one sees the Russian position,” he added, mentioning Moscow’s veto power at the Council.

According to the United Nations, natural disasters caused 10,000 deaths and affected more than 65 million people last year.

The debate was organized by the Dominican Republic, which currently holds the Council’s rotating presidency.