UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council high-level open debate on climate and security at UN headquarters in New York, Spet. 23, 2021. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday highlighted "three absolute priorities" in climate action in the context of climate and security. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday highlighted "three absolute priorities" in climate action in the context of climate and security.
Much bolder climate action is needed ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, this November -- with the Group of 20 largest economies in the lead -- to maintain international peace and security, said Guterres.
"Our window of opportunity to prevent the worst climate impacts is rapidly closing. No region is immune. Wildfires, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather events are affecting every continent," he told a Security Council high-level open debate on climate and security.
The effects of climate change are particularly profound when they overlap with fragility and past or current conflicts. It is clear that climate change and environmental mismanagement are risk multipliers. Where coping capacities are limited and there is high dependence on shrinking natural resources and ecosystem services, such as water and fertile land, grievances and tensions can explode, complicating efforts to prevent conflict and to sustain peace, he warned.
The threats are clear and present. But it is not too late to act to ensure that climate action contributes to international peace and security, he said, highlighting three priorities in climate action.
The first priority is unambiguous commitment and credible actions by all countries to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. He urged all UN member states to show more ambition in their Nationally Determined Contributions by the convening of COP26 and to translate their commitments into concrete and immediate action so that global greenhouse gas emissions can be cut by 45 percent by 2030.
The second priority is a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience to deal with the already dire impacts of climate disruption on the lives and livelihoods of people all over the world. The third priority is to make climate adaptation and peacebuilding reinforce each other, he said.
It is essential that at least 50 percent of climate finance globally is committed to building resilience and supporting adaptation, said Guterres. "This need is urgent, as growing climate impacts remind us daily."
Annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at 70 billion U.S. dollars, and the costs are expected to reach 300 billion dollars a year by 2030. Huge gaps remain in adaptation finance for developing countries, he said.
"We simply cannot achieve our shared climate goals -- nor achieve hope for lasting peace and security -- if resilience and adaptation continue to be the forgotten half of the climate equation. This neglect is seriously endangering our collective efforts on the crucial road to COP26 in November," he warned.
Developed countries must uphold their promise to deliver -- before COP26 -- 100 billion dollars in climate finance annually to the developing world. And they must ensure this reaches the most affected populations. Grant financing is essential, as loans will add to already crushing debt burdens in the most climate-vulnerable countries, he said.
Climate adaptation and peacebuilding can and should reinforce each other, said Guterres.
For example, in the Lake Chad region, dialogue platforms for cooperatively managing natural resources, supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, have promoted reforestation and improved access to sustainable livelihoods. In West and Central Africa, cross-border projects have enabled dialogue and promoted more transparent management of scarce natural resources, a factor of peace, he said.
"As climate change is impacting water resources worldwide, we must leverage water for peace, drawing lessons from the past. For example, in the Sava River Basin in Eastern Europe, transboundary water cooperation was the starting point of regional reconciliation and cooperation after the deadly war in the Balkans in the 1990s," he said.
Across all these efforts, women are critical agents of change. The Security Council has long recognized and sought to strengthen women's role in sustaining peace. Women and girls face severe risks from both climate change and conflict, and their meaningful participation and leadership bring more sustainable results that benefit more people, he said.
The United Nations is integrating climate risks into its political analysis as well as conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives, he said.
The Climate Security Mechanism is supporting field missions, country teams and regional and subregional organizations to analyze and address climate-related security risks and shape integrated and timely responses. Work is gaining traction in countries and regions where the Security Council has recognized that climate and ecological change are undermining stability.
The UN Regional Office in West Africa and the Sahel has launched a new initiative on peace, climate change and environmental degradation, which will help the Economic Community of West African States, as well as other regional bodies and national and local governments, to harmonize efforts to reduce climate-related security risks in the subregion, he said.
In South Sudan, 95 percent of the population relies on agriculture or pastoralism and is thus affected by drought and unseasonal flooding. The UN peacekeeping operation in the country is collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Organization for Migration to promote the peaceful resolution of farmer-herder conflicts, he said.
"We are all part of the solution. Let us all work together to mitigate and adapt to climate disruption to build peaceful and resilient societies," he said.
The open debate is a signature event for Ireland, which holds the Security Council presidency for the month of September. Scheduled to coincide with the high-level week of the UN General Assembly, the debate was attended by two heads of state, one head of government and several ministers. Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin presided over the debate. Enditem