Russia and India reject attempts to turn global warming into a global security issue.
UN Security Council hears of climate threat, does nothing
When it comes to climate change, bombs don’t work, so the United Nations Security Council prefers words to action.
Tuesday saw the highest profile discussion of climate change in the U.N.’s central body for promoting global peace. But Russia, which holds a veto as a permanent member of the Council, warned against any move to recognize warming as a threat to global security.
Moscow’s stance left the Security Council’s U.K. presidency stabbing at a broken panic button.
“It is absolutely clear that climate change is a threat to our collective security and the security of our nations,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who presided over the meeting.
Leaders from many of the Council’s 15 members spoke of the droughts, floods, deserts, storms and rising seas eating away at the foundations of peace. They conjured up a future of regional collapse and millions of climate refugees looking for safe harbor.
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne challenged the world to imagine if 2017’s Hurricane Irma had not only forced the near abandonment of Barbuda, but hit Antigua too.
“What would have happened to the entire population of my country?” he said.
In 2020, the U.S. under then President Donald Trump blocked a German effort to draft a sweeping Security Council resolution naming climate change as a threat to global security. Last week, the U.S. officially rejoined the Paris Agreement and on Monday, climate envoy John Kerry said “the climate crisis is indisputably a Security Council issue.”
“The climate threat is so massive, so multifaceted,” said Kerry, “we bury our heads in the sand at our own peril.”
But Russia’s representative to the U.N. Vasily Nebenzya said the Council should not take on the work of other U.N. agencies that specialize in climate, “where this is dealt with by professionals.”
The Security Council has recognized climate change’s role in instability in the Central African Republic, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia and throughout West Africa.
But Nebenzya said the link between climate change and conflicts was specific to certain countries and there was “no justification” for making that connection globally. That “would even be dangerous,” he said, because “considering the climate the root cause of security issues is a distraction from the true root causes.”
As an example, Nebenzya blamed the destabilization of Africa’s Sahel region on NATO’s “willful” regime change campaign in Libya in 2011.
China, which has been Russia’s ally on this issue in past meetings, voiced narrower concerns. “Any role the Security Council plays on climate change needs to fall within the Council’s purview,” said climate envoy Xie Zhenhua.
But Xie supported the core sentiment raised by Johnson, Kerry and others, leaving Russia isolated among the five permanent members of the Council. “Climate change has become a pressing and serious threat to the survival, development and security of humankind,” Xie said.
More aggressive pushback came from India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. He said there was no “accepted methodology” to show climate change was a cause of conflicts.