Russia blocks UN decision to view climate as a security threat

Russia on Monday blocked a draft UN Security Council resolution, under negotiation for many months, that would have defined climate change for the first time as a threat to peace.

The resolution, which received broad support, is said to have significantly broadened the criteria used by the most powerful United Nations agency to justify intervention in armed conflicts around the world.

Russia’s derailment of the measure underscored the challenges the United Nations faces in uniting the global community to tackle climate change, which Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and others have called an existential threat.

Despite progress in tackling greenhouse gas emissions thanks to a deal reached at the UN-sponsored climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland last month, that deal falls far short of what many scientists believe it is necessary to curb rising temperatures and disastrous changes in weather conditions. of a warming planet. Among other weaknesses, the agreement does not specify how the most vulnerable countries will be able to afford the huge investments needed to adapt.

The possible role of climate change in armed conflict has long been a topic of discussion at the United Nations and elsewhere. Droughts and desertification exacerbated by climate change in Mali, Niger and other parts of Africa, for example, are seen as integral to the competition for water, food, farmland and land. pastures that can lead to violence and instability.

The draft Security Council resolution, co-sponsored by Ireland and Niger, the current Council president, was a version of what was originally proposed in 2020 by Germany but was never put to a vote .

The Ireland-Niger project reportedly required the 15-member body to include climate change as a factor relating to “any root causes of conflict or risk multipliers”. He also reportedly asked the secretary general to report regularly on how to deal with the risks of climate change in conflict prevention.

The vote on the resolution in the 15-member council was 12 in favor, with Russia and India opposed and China abstaining. Russia being one of the five permanent members of the Council with veto power, its negative vote blocked the passage.

Vassily A. Nebenzia, Russian Ambassador to the UN, said he saw the resolution as a pretext by the wealthy Western powers to justify interference in the internal affairs of other countries. “Positioning climate change as a threat to international security distracts the Council’s attention from the genuine and deeply rooted reasons for conflict in the countries on the Council’s agenda,” said Nebenzia.

Reinforcing its statement on its website, the Russian Mission to the UN criticized the resolution as a “proposal to establish this automatic link while neglecting all other aspects of the situations in countries in conflict or in backward countries. socio-economic development “.

Nebenzia and Indian Ambassador TS Tirumurti said all climate issues should be left to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body tasked with addressing the global threat posed by climate change. warming temperatures.

Tirumurti said India was “second to none in climate action and climate justice, but the Security Council is not the place to discuss either issue.”

Russia’s veto was the first on a resolution put to a vote this year in the Council, the only United Nations body with the power to impose sanctions and order the use of armed force when deemed necessary.

Russia has been the most prolific user of its veto in the Security Council in recent years to block actions it perceives as manipulative by Western powers to intervene in the internal disputes of other countries. The change began after 2011, when Russia abstained in a Security Council vote on a resolution that allowed force in the Libyan conflict, which Russia later said had been grossly mistreated by the West.

UN diplomats said at least 113 of the world body’s 193 members backed the resolution, putting Russia in the position of having blocked what would have been a relatively popular move.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, attacking Russia’s veto, said it had “prevented the world’s most important body for the maintenance of international peace and security from taking an small practical and necessary measure to fight against the impacts of climate change ”.

Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason told reporters after the vote that Ireland and Niger were “extremely disappointed”.

“We know full well that this resolution would have been a historic and important – not to say necessary – decision for the board at a critical time,” she said.

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