U.S. special envoy says humanity is “burying its head in the sand” when faced with climate problems
NEW YORK – U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Affairs John Kerry called on the U.N. Security Council to begin treating the climate crisis as the “urgent security threat” that it is.
“The climate threat is so vast and multifaceted that it cannot be separated from the other challenges the Security Council is trying to address,” Kerry said at a virtual summit on climate and conflict.
“We are burying our heads in the sand, putting ourselves in danger,” he warned.
Kerry spoke at the summit days after the U.S. officially rejoined the Paris climate agreement, reversing the Donald Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the landmark treaty.
According to Kerry, it was an “inexcusable absence” of the country from this debate.
Much of the international climate debate focuses on the environmental consequences of global warming, but Tuesday’s session was meant to highlight the impact of climate change on peace and security.
“Where climate change is drying up rivers, losing crops, damaging critical infrastructure, displacing populations, the potential for instability and conflict also increases,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned the Security Council.
A 2018 study in Sweden found that eight of the 10 countries with major U.N. peacekeeping operations are in areas prone to severe climate change.
“Whether you like it or not, the only question is when your country and your people will have to deal with the security implications of climate change,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chaired the meeting.
French President Emmanuel Macron suggested appointing a special envoy for climate security to coordinate the council’s work in this area.
“I see only positives in having the secretary-general report annually to the Security Council on the impact of international security and climate change in order to plan ahead, alert us and make recommendations so that we can fulfill our role,” Macron said.
But not all members of the Security Council agreed that it was the right forum to address climate change.
“We agree that climate change and environmental problems can exacerbate conflicts,” Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said. – But are they the root cause? There are big doubts about that.