US climate envoy John Kerry warned on Tuesday that global warming was making the world a more dangerous place and posing risks to peace and security around the world.
Failure to address the threats of climate change is “moving towards what almost amounts to a mutual suicide pact,” Kerry told a United Nations Security Council session attended by presidents and prime ministers of several countries.
“We bury our heads in the sand at our own risk,” he continued. “It is urgent to treat the climate crisis as the urgent security threat that it is.”
Climate change has been looming in the Security Council for more than a decade, but Tuesday’s meeting stood out for its stark contrast to the past four years, when the United States, under the presidency of Donald J. Trump, sought to block even general mentions of climate science in United Nations proceedings.
“Altering the climate is an amplifier and a multiplier of crises,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres told the Council.
Mr. Kerry pointed to the “inexcusable absence” of US leadership on climate in the past four years. As president, Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, the global agreement designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions. President Biden began the reinstatement process as soon as he was sworn in.
The Security Council has the power to impose sanctions and authorize peacekeeping missions to countries, which is why countries argue about what they should and should not address.
Kerry’s comments were part of a diplomatic dispute that erupted between powerful countries over whether climate change should even be discussed at the world body, which was designed to address war and peace.
Russia, India and China, all among the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, argued that climate change could be addressed in other ways. New global failures began to emerge.
India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar dismissed the idea of climate change as a driver of conflict. China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua framed climate change as a development problem. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily A. Nebenzia, was philosophical about rising temperatures. “Are they really the root causes of these conflicts?” I ask.
The session did not lead to anything concrete. But the fact that it happened, and the participation of various presidents and prime ministers, sent a signal that climate change is becoming increasingly important among member states of the United Nations, particularly with the United States taking over. “The Biden team’s emphasis on global warming has changed the incentive structure in the Council, and I think many states are going to flag the problem this year,” said Richard Gowan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.
Of the 21 countries where the United Nations currently deploys peacekeepers, 10 are ranked the most exposed to climate change, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent research group.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country is serving as the rotating Security Council chair this month, opened the session by saying: “I know there are people around the world who will say this is all a green thing from a bunch of chewers of tofu hugging the trees and not suitable for international diplomacy and international politics. “He added:” I could not disagree more. “
Britain is hosting the upcoming United Nations climate negotiations, to be held in November in Glasgow.