United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Addressing Climate Related Risks
Statement23 February 2021
United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Addressing Climate Related Risks to International Peace and Security
Tuesday, 23 February 2021
Thank you very much Dominic,
Let me start by congratulating you, and the United Kingdom, on your presidency of the Council, and for hosting this very important debate at such a high level.
I would like also to thank Secretary General Guterres for his remarks and his leadership on this issue, and, of course, I want to thank the briefer, Nisreen Elsaim, for her important testimony.
Through a lifetimes’ work, David Attenborough has brought into our homes the wonder, but also the vulnerability, of our planet’s rich biodiversity - a common heritage, and we owe it to future generations to protect and preserve it.
Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation.
Unaddressed, it will impact every part of our planet. No aspect of our societies will be untouched.
We need urgent and collective action by all pillars of the multilateral system, including this Council, if we are to meet this challenge.
How we respond today will determine our shared future tomorrow and we all have a role to play.
Ireland, along with the rest of the EU, will not be found wanting.
Ireland will transition to a net zero economy by 2050.
My country, like all others, is already feeling the impacts of climate change. We are taking mitigation actions. But these actions alone will not safeguard our future and we know that.
As Prime Minister Johnson has said, we must scale up our investments in Adaptation and Resilience if we are to protect the poorest and most vulnerable from the effects of climate change, especially in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
Countries like Ireland that have the means have a responsibility to act first. In doing so, we must consider the quality of our climate finance as we work to increase its quantity.
In this regard, in the lead up to COP26 and beyond, we must listen to and be guided by the voices of those most affected by climate change, particularly those in Least Developed Countries and in Small Island Developing States.
But we must also go beyond listening and promote the critical role of these countries in decision making processes on climate.
In this vein, we have been pleased to work closely with the UK on the Adaptation and Resilience agenda through the LIFE-AR Initiative. This initiative, led by Least Developed Countries, aims to sustainably increase the proportion of climate finance that reaches the local level for vital adaptation activities, from an estimated 10% today to 70% by 2030.
Urgent action is needed to combat the effects of climate change on our environment, and on our complex global eco-system.
We look forward to the COP 26 negotiations in Glasgow later this year, where we hope real progress can be made, building on the achievements of the Paris climate agreement.
Climate change has many complex impacts, not least on international peace and security, the very business of this Council.
This is the core of our debate today.
It is clear that climate change is already causing upheaval, affecting people and security and the stability of societies across the world.
This is the testimony we hear daily from around the world – from small island states, from African partners, from regions affected by devastating forest fires or floods.
We have seen in the Sahel, particularly in the countries around Lake Chad, how conflict and climate combine to diminish the availability of, and access to, natural resources. This amplifies tensions between farmers and others, which in turn causes and triggers violence.
Across the Horn of Africa, the multiple and repeated shocks of drought and flooding undermine community resilience and livelihoods, creating drivers which armed groups exploit for influence and recruitment.
This Council has mandated peacekeeping missions in eight of the fifteen countries most susceptible to climate risks and if that doesn’t send us a message I’m not sure what will.
The relationship between climate and security works in complex ways.
Political instability undermines efforts to build climate resilience, and the impact of climactic shocks is compounded when institutions are strained or broken.
We need to address these linkages between climate, insecurity and peace as part of our conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts and responsibilities on this Council.
And we need to further build on our collective understanding of these linkages to enable us to take effective action.
Ireland is proud to join the Weathering Risk Project to help guide our action on the Security Council and beyond.
We are keen to understand better not just how climate change contributes to insecurity but how climate action can build peace. And to use this understanding as we prioritise Climate and Security during our time on the Council
We are chairing the Informal Expert Group of Member States on this topic, together with Niger. This group provides a vital platform for sharing information on the why and how of climate action in the context of building and sustaining peace.
We will partner with Nauru and Germany, as Chairs of the Group of Friends of Climate and Security. While the Council must take action, it is essential to work with the wider community of nations as we do so.
Ireland’s core message today is that the inclusion of climate in Security Council discussions and actions will strengthen conflict prevention and support peacebuilding efforts.
Climate action alone, of course, will not deliver peace. We recognise that. But without climate action, we will have a less sustainable peace in many parts of the world.
Ireland will take a practical and action-orientated approach.
We recognise that our peacekeepers are already responding to climate related crises.
Where climate related security risks exist, peacekeeping operations need to be underpinned by clear mandates and sufficient resources.
We also recognise the gender dimensions of climate change, with women and girls most vulnerable to its effects, but they are also critical to our response to climate change and we must ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in decision-making processes related to climate issues and the management of natural resources.
We must also engage deeply with young people, who have shown solidarity and extraordinary leadership at times on climate change on a global scale.
But in listening to and understanding the concerns and insights of future generations, we can’t abrogate our responsibility to provide leadership today.
The world’s response to the climate emergency can also be a cause for hope, which is needed right now.
The vast majority of UN member States wish to work together to ensure that we address one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.
We can and must work in a way that addresses the threats to global peace and security from climate change, enhancing global cooperation as we do so.
Climate change challenges all of humanity. But I am optimistic – and drawing from the words of James Joyce: ‘I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today.’
Starting afresh today, let’s work together. This is an important year for climate action particularly in the build up to COP26.