Climate crisis is a 'code red': Taoiseach Micheál Martin addresses UN Security Council

Micheál Martin's speech was supported by France, the US, the UK and others, but it was not met warmly by Russia, China or India
Climate crisis is a 'code red': Taoiseach Micheál Martin addresses UN Security Council

Micheál Martin is today the first Taoiseach to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council as Ireland holds the Presidency of the council this month. Picture: Don Pollard/CFR/PA

The Taoiseach has opened a UN debate on climate change and global security as the UN President warned that the climate crisis is a "code red".

Micheál Martin is today the first Taoiseach to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council as Ireland holds the Presidency of the council this month. In his speech, Mr Martin said that the Security Council must agree that extreme weather events are a cause and exacerbating factor of global conflict.

"A concerted multilateral response to climate change involving all the organs of the UN is urgently needed. That response must include this Council.

"The impact of climate change is global and our collective security is at risk."

While the call was broadly supported by France, the US, Kenya, Norway, the UK and others, it was less warmly welcomed by Russia and China, two holdouts on linking the two issues. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the issue was "an argument that should have been settled a long time ago". 

He said that the effects of climate change were not an idea in the future, but one that is seen in New York where subway stations flooded recently.

Mr Martin confirmed that Ireland will begin the work of passing a resolution on the issue next week. "To take these proposals forward, Ireland will convene a discussion on a thematic resolution on Climate and Security in the coming days. 

"I ask today that all members of the Council engage constructively on this Resolution. People affected by climate change-driven conflict depend on this Council for leadership.

"The international community is looking to us for guidance.

"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."

However, the three holdouts on the Security Council rejected Ireland's resolution out of hand.

India's representative Reenat Sandhu argued that the Paris Agreement and the UN framework convention on climate change are there to "holistically" address climate change.

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.

"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."

He said that the climate issue would "not benefit" from inclusion at the Security Council.

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

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

Speaking after the debate, Mr Martin said that "now is the time to act". He said that 80% of UN peacekeepers are deployed to countries being hit by climate emergencies.

Mr Martin said that the threat of a veto from Russia and China did not mean the resolution was "doomed". He said that Ireland will engage "with all members in good faith" and said that Ireland will try to persuade those opposed.

He said that "as an experienced politician" he believed that there is a "greater consensus on climate change than there had been".

"One cannot go through life assuming that others will not change their minds. One has to pursue and persist and change the paradigm. People don't have the same opinions forever."

He said that the Security Council had been discussing the issue for 15 years but that there was "no time to waste".

More in this section


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

Execution Time: 0.204 s