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Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen in the UN Security Council VTC Meeting on the Humanitarian Impact of Environmental Degradation on Peace and Security, September 17

17.09.2020 - Speech

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Mr. President, thank you very much for scheduling this very important event about the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation on security at the beginning of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. I also express Germany's condolences on the recent floods that hit your country.

The topic is not for the first time on the agenda. Since Germany has been on the Security Council, we have had this on the agenda almost monthly. Many presidencies have put this topic on the agenda: from the Dominican Republic to Niger, from France to Germany. In the debates, we heard speaker after speaker highlight the very clear nexus between climate change, environmental degradation, extreme weather events, desertification and conflict. This is not a country-specific phenomenon; it's a global phenomenon, and there are examples on all continents. We heard a lot about Africa, the Sahel, Lake Chad, but also Afghanistan and Haiti. Lord Ahmad in his intervention said that the warnings grow louder and louder, they come from further and further away. I add, with regard to climate change, that they are also coming closer and closer. The U.N. headquarters is in the United States, and in this country, we have this year the highest number of hurricanes affecting one side of this country. Day after day, we see new very tragic records with regard to wildfires in the west of this country, the consequences of which can be seen from space. Climate change and environmental degradation affect those who are most vulnerable, women and girls. They affect countries with weak state and economic structures.

Dear colleagues, there are ten members of the Security Council that have launched an initiative with the objective that the Council assumes its responsibility and reacts to the threats that are so evident to peace and security, which climate change and environmental degradation without any doubt present.

It is really a pity that this project was not supported in the interventions of our American, Russian and Chinese friends, even regarding simple things like having a regular report by the Secretary-General on the consequences of climate change on security, or training U.N. peacekeepers to recognize when degradation happens and react to possible consequences for conflict, or having a Special Representative who concentrates on the issue. Our Chinese colleague says how much China cares for Africa, so I would like to remind you that it was the Ambassador from Niger, as President of the Council, who clearly said today that there is a link between environmental degradation, climate change and security.

Colleagues, we can suppress action of the Council, but the problem will not go away. I am very grateful for Peter Maurer, who told us today what the International Committee of the Red Cross will do. Also, in view of protection of the environment in conflict zones, Ibrahim [Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification] is doing in his work to combat desertification. I would like also to express a special thanks to our briefer from civil society, and to all the many civil society actors, many of whom are women and youth who, against all odds, against some reluctance within the UNSC, don't give up their work to prevent further Degradation.


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