Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Maintainance of International Peace and Security: Climate Security
23 February 2021
Statement by H.E. Mohan Pieris, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Honorable Prime Minister,
May I first of all thank Madam President for facilitating this very important discussion. It is common ground that we human beings are exploiting the resources of the planet in a way which is unacceptable. We appear to present a timid response to the clearing of forests, the filling of wetlands a serious interference with the biodiversity an unimaginable exploitation of the planet’s resources melting of the ice caps and extinction of the fauna and flora, all leading to one thing, and that is Climate change.
My dear friends, all this we do without appreciating the fact that, we are at war with our own planet, a war which we are surely on the losing side. It has virtually become common rhetoric almost to the point of complacency, that, we as a matter of fact breathe polluted air, consume food that is toxic, consume water that is contaminated, that we accept the rising sea levels as a fact of life, we even accept extreme climate change with an interesting expression: an ice bomb or a winter bomb.
Interestingly, it seems that we are leaving a legacy of a severely wounded planet to our future generations. It must be appreciated that environmental impact is not merely the loss of beautiful landscape but what it means is the basic requirement to sustain life which is, on a continuous basis, severely compromised.
Today, as we struggle with COVID-19, it is clear that, non-traditional security threats, such as Climate change, are becoming greater in scope and magnitude in the 21st century. In this context, Sri Lanka welcomes the convening of this timely open debate to discuss the role of the Security Council, of Member States and the UN in addressing future threats to international peace and security posed by Climate change.
Before discussing the role of global climate governance, with relevance to international legal framework, let me refer to a quote by his Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, who captured the issue as far back in 2009, very succinctly, when he said “just as our banking sector is struggling with its debts and paradoxically also facing cause for a return to the so called old fashioned traditional banking, so is nature’s life support systems which are failing to cope with the debts we have built up in our quest for development. So, if we don’t face up to this, then nature, the biggest bank of all will go bust.” A very timely observation.
We are aware that the UNFCCC sets out binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 has binding obligations for developed countries to control greenhouse emissions, which was followed by the 2010 conference which decided that global warming should be limited to below 2 degrees centigrade. And in 2015 the Paris Agreement was adopted bringing emission reduction from 2020 onwards to a lowering target of 1.5 degrees centigrade.
It is important to also remember that the Paris Agreement has a bottom-up structure in contrast to the international law treaties which are top down with the characteristics that it has standards and targets set internationally for countries to achieve. It is heartening to note that unlike the Kyoto Protocol which sets targets and have legal force the Paris Agreement is dependent upon consensus building and voluntariness in achieving targets that are decided nationally. It is further heartening to recall that in 2015 developed countries committed themselves to about 100 billion dollars annually in climate finance and further agreed to maintain it at a level of 100 billion a year until the year 2025.
However, it is perhaps regrettable to note that, a large number of the major developing industrialized nations were not living up to their pledges nor met the emission reduction targets, and in any event they have not been able to keep the rise of global temperatures well below the 2 degree centigrade. It is said that the earth has never in its history had a quasi-stable state that is around 2 degrees centigrade warmer than the pre-industrial period and suggest that there is a substantial risk that the system itself will want to continue warming because of these processes even if we stop emissions.
It is therefore important to appreciate that simply reducing emissions will not do but we will have to do something much more. As James Hanson, a former NASA Scientist and a climate expert observed that most of the Agreements unfortunately consist of promises or aims and not commitments.
As an island country, that has faced adverse impact of Climate change, Sri Lanka, having ratified the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC, advocates that Climate related agreements need to be respected and upheld, in adherence to differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities. This, I say, is pivotal to ensure comprehensive climate security and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Consequences of climate change such as temperature rise, rainfall variability and sea level rise are critically affecting almost all economic sectors globally. Occurrences of natural disasters due to extreme weather conditions such as prolonged droughts, flash floods and landslides deprive lives and livelihoods of the global community. Sri Lanka believes that building resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems over climate change effects within a broader framework of sustainable development should be our priority.
Recognizing this responsibility, the Government of Sri Lanka has launched a National Adaptation Plan for Climate Change Impacts in Sri Lanka, which has identified agriculture, fisheries, water, human health, coastal and marine ecosystems and biodiversity, infrastructure and human settlements as the most vulnerable sectors to the adverse effects of climate change. It provides the opportunity for the stakeholders for developing policies, strengthening cooperation, facilitating institutional buildng, resources mobilization, technology development and transfer, promote awareness and capacity building and to increase resilience of vulnerable communities, in several areas and sectors in the country.
In implemtning the provisions of the National Adaptation Plans for climate change, as in the case of Sri Lanka, external support for further strengthening and action is of great significance. As such, Sri Lanka calls on the UN system for the provision of assistance to developing countries, in combating the challenges, including finance, technology transfer and capacity budiling. This would, in my respectful view, be a starting point for preventing climate related security risks.
Our fight againts climate change and consolidating security should be a collective effort, in partnership with Governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, youth, women and indigenous communicities. While commending the efforts of the Security Council in this endavour, Sri Lanka looks forward to COP26 in Glasgow this year, to unite the globe to tackle climate change.
I wish you every success in leading the Security Council during your tenure of office.