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Taoiseach denies that UN resolution on climate change and global conflict is doomed

The Taoiseach is chairing the UN Security Council debate in New York today.

The Taoiseach speaking at the UN Security Council in New York today.
The Taoiseach speaking at the UN Security Council in New York today.
Image: John Minchillo

Updated Sep 23rd 2021, 3:00 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has denied that the UN resolution on climate and security that Ireland wants to see get over the line by the end of the year is doomed.

Speaking to reporters after he addressed the UN Security Council, Martin said there is support for the resolution. 

He acknowledged that there is some opposition, but he said Ireland will work with those countries to try and persuade them to their thinking, stating that people can change their minds. 

Three countries, including the two of the UN Security Council’s permanent members Russia and China – who have a veto on decisions – expressed strong opposition to the proposal today.

Speaking today, the Russian representative Dmitry&nbsp A Polyanskiy said he agreed with calls for action on climate change but disagreed with the Security Council getting involved in the matter.

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

In his address to the council, the Taoiseach said that people affected by climate change-driven conflict are depending on the council for leadership. 

Martin is in New York this week for a series of week-long UN events, which includes him chairing today’s debate, as well as addressing the UN General Assembly tomorrow.

Martin used his speaking time today to push for a resolution that would establish a system for monitoring climate-related conflicts.

Speaking to the high-level leaders, he told the council the international community is looking to the council for guidance.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation,” he said.

He said the recent UN report on climate change “laid out, in stark terms, what is happening to our planet, and what the future may hold should we fail to act”.

The Taoiseach said it is essential that we act now to prevent further warming by reaching net zero emissions as quickly as possible.

“We must redouble our efforts to ensure a successful outcome at COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

“A concerted multilateral response to climate change involving all the organs of the UN is urgently needed,” he said.

The Taoiseach said:

That response must include this Council. The impact of climate change is global and our collective security is at risk.

Convincing council members

Irish officials believe that 12 of the 15 members of the council back Ireland’s call for such a resolution.

However, they believe there is resistance from China, Russia and India, which are yet to be convinced that the Security Council is the body that should be tasked with considering such issues as climate change.

The Taoiseach told the UN Security Council members that its mandate 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.

“I know 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,” said the Taoiseach.

Martin said climate change is already contributing to conflict in many parts of the world, noting that from the Sahel to Iraq, the council has recognised that climate change is one of the factors driving conflict and fragility.

“Around Lake Chad, the combination of conflict and the impact of climate change has led to violence between communities.

“In the Horn of Africa, repeated droughts are undermining coping capacities among communities and disrupting livelihoods. Armed groups have been able to exploit these precarious conditions for recruitment purposes.

“The need for action is clear,” he added.

Link between climate change and global conflicts

Martin said link between climate and instability has been recognised by the African Union, the European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum.

“Sea level rise, displacement, and competition over resources are contributing to tensions,” he said.

“If the Security Council is to meet its responsibility to maintain international peace and security, it must have the information and tools to analyse and address climate related security risks,” said the Taoiseach.

Martin told the council that an informal expert group of members of the Security Council has convened since 2020 to support the council’s work on climate and security.

Ireland is proud to serve, together with Niger, as co-chair of this Group, said Martin, adding that the group provides data and evidence to inform future action by the council on climate related conflict.

Martin proposed that the Secretary-General submit a periodic report to the Security Council on how climate change is threatening the maintenance of international peace and security.

He said the appointment of a special representative for climate-related security risks could also build awareness and promote greater coherence.

“These actions are just the beginning of what is necessary for the Council to begin to fulfil its obligations,” he said.

Martin said Ireland will convene discussion on a thematic resolution on Climate and Security in the coming days, and he asked members of the Council to engage constructively on the resolution.

“By working together, in a spirit of common purpose, I hope that we can reach a shared understanding of how the Security Council can meet this challenge. Now is the moment for the Council to act,” he concluded.

Prior to the Taoiseach’s speech, the council heard from a peace activist from Somalia, Ilwad Elman, who briefed on how climate change has impacted her work. 

She said the impact of climate change and environmental degradation “are changing what it takes to build peace for local peace builders”. 

Many council members have shown support to the council’s engagement to climate and security, she said. “This is welcomed progress, although still too painfully slow for the vulnerable communities at the frontline of these issues,” she added.

A number of speakers reacted positively to the Taoiseach’s call for a resolution on climate risks and global instability, as well as a special envoy on the matter. 

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked Ireland for putting the issue on the agenda today.

“We have to stop debating whether the climate crisis belongs in the Security Council” and instead ask how the council can leverage its unique powers to tackle the negative impacts of climate change, he said.

He said the impacts of climate change can’t be ignored, highlighting that in New York in recent weeks, flooding caused a number of deaths in the city.

The French Foreign and Europe Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the climate fight is not just an environmental one. “It is one for peace and security,” he said.

Norway’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Ine Marie Eriksen Søreides said the council must show leadership, stating that climate and security is one of Norway’s main priorities.

The three countries that are against such a resolution being adopted did not mince their words when addressing the Taoiseach this morning. 

Screenshot (4)

Reenat Sandhu, representing India at council level, said climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time.

She argued that the Paris Agreement and the UN framework convention on climate change are there to “holistically” address climate change.

“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.

“Picking one aspect of climate change, namely climate security and dealing with it in this forum which is not there to tackle a multi-faceted problem of this nature not be desirable.

“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,” she added.

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How to deal with climate change needs to be based on agreed principles by the council.

She said bringing climate change into the discourse has the “potential to disrupt our over discussion on this very important topic”.

She said climate instability on conflict “is contested”, stating that climate change cannot be determined as a reason for conflict.

“Over simplification” will not help in resolving such conflicts, she added.

“We need to bring back our focus on where it should be, combatting climate change,” she said.

‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’

Russia’s representative said that “too many cooks spoil the broth” and said that the UN’s other arms already handle the substantive issues.

He said that the Security Council was not a universal tool of the UN and that climate change was one of many challenges.

He said that Russia “wholeheartedly concurs” with international calls to address climate concerns, but Ireland’s resolution would duplicate work at the UN.

“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.

“This kind of an approach is also liable to artificially simplify the approach to the situation, which in turn is liable to result in one-sided and futile solutions in terms of strengthening, stability, worldwide. 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 said that the climate issue would “not benefit” from inclusion at the Security Council.

China’s reaction

China representative Zhang Jun said the UN report noted that the climate change has become a “real threat to the survival of mankind”.

He said the relationship between climate and security “is very complex”.

“There is a need to get it right in discussing issues relating to climate and security,” he said, arguing that they should be kept separate to the the security council’s mandate.

He said it is “imperative” that the Paris Agreement and other UN bodies that are tasked with dealing with climate change issues be maintained as the main channels in dealing with the issue.

He said the Paris Agreement is the “most authoritative channel to do this”.

He said it would be “inappropriate” for the security council to replace this channel. While he said the security council may focus on climate change on country specific agenda items, China does not feel the council “has the necessary specialised knowledge mechanisms or tools” to address the issue of climate change.

The council should “refrain” from including climate and security in its mandate, he said.

TheJournal.ie’s Political Correspondent Christina Finn will be bringing you all the latest updates from Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s visit to New York this week.

Stay up-to-date by following @christinafinn8@TJ_Politics@thejournal_ie and TheJournal.ie’s Facebook page

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